Military vets push marijuana research on Capitol Hill

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Vets have been testifying before Congress to try and change VA rules

Over the past several weeks, a number of military veterans have spent time on Capitol Hill, speaking to Congress about the necessity of revamping the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to allow more marijuana research. The push is just one of many that are trying to open the door to more marijuana acceptance for military personnel, many of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In numerous studies, cannabis has been shown to reduce the symptoms of PTSD.

There have been a series of hearings by the joint House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee this month that have seen participation by several groups representing vets. Among these are Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), among other groups.

In written testimony, DAV included “Support VA research into the efficacy of cannabis for service-connected disabled veterans” as one of the items it would like to see Congress undertake this year. The VFW’s commander-in-chief, Vincent Lawrence, added that PTSD has been “thrust into the forefront of the medical community and the general public in large part due to suicides and overmedication of veterans,” asserting that this demonstrates the need for more studies by the VA on the possible benefits of medical marijuana.

He continued, “For veterans who use medical cannabis and are also VA patients, they are doing this without the medical understanding or proper guidance from their coordinators of care at VA. This is not to say VA providers are opting to ignore this medical treatment, but that there is currently a lack of federal research and understanding of how medical marijuana may or may not treat certain illnesses and injuries, and the way it interacts with other drugs.”

There have already been a number of bills submitted to Congress this year that seek to expand medical marijuana research. One of these, the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act, specifically gives the VA the authority to conduct clinical trials of marijuana to treat chronic pain and PTSD.

At another committee hearing, IAVA CEO Jeremy Butler offered, “The use of medical cannabis has been growing in support by the veteran population for quite some time. For years, IAVA members have sounded off in support of researching medical cannabis for the wounds of war and legalizing medical cannabis. Veterans consistently and passionately have communicated that cannabis offers effective help in tackling some of the most pressing injuries we face when returning from war.”

Several lawmakers acknowledged the necessity of further research and seemed to be supportive of the idea. However, going from support to realization in Capitol Hill can sometimes be a long, windy road.