Veterans have been vocal lately about their need to be able to use medical marijuana for PTSD as well as all the other conditions allowable to American residents. The American Legion in particular, which is the largest wartime association with its 2.4 million members, have been demanding change. “It’s time the federal government took action to remove barriers to scientific research on this very important subject,” Joe Plenzler, the Legion’s director of media relations, told The Cannabist. Veterans are generally prescribed opioids for their pain. Opioids are highly addictive and kill thousands of people a year. Medical marijuana has been used to treat PTSD and other common conditions in a safer, non-addictive way.
Failing Our Veterans
Unfortunately, the GOP has blocked a bill that would have allowed veterans to access medical marijuana in states where it is legal. The House Rules Committee removed the “Veterans Equal Access” bill from being able to be funded by the Veterans Affairs (VA) next year. The bill was sponsored by Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer and backed by 9 Democrats and 9 Republicans. Blumenauer expressed being “bitterly disappointed” saying that “this is a subject that has gained a great deal more attention and momentum. More people recognize that the VA has really failed our veterans when it has come to pain management, opioids and opioid dependency.”
Treating Opioid Addiction with Cannabis
In 2016, 66,000 veterans were treated for opioid addiction by the VA. It is linked to a high number of suicides, crime and even homelessness. In states where medical marijuana is legal, opioid related hospital visits are down approximately 23 percent. Medical marijuana has been successfully used to treat the opioid epidemic by providing a safer, healthier and non-addictive alternative to pain medication and as a means of more successfully treating PTSD.
Hope for Veterans
However, all is not lost for veterans. A fiscal bill in motion in the Senate, drafted by Republican senator Steve Daines, also allows veterans to be eligible for the medical marijuana program in states that have one. Currently, 29 states and Washington D.C. have legalized medical marijuana. 8 states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana. Recent polls indicate that the majority of Americans support the legalization of medical marijuana and 2/3 of the country believe in a state’s right to create its own marijuana laws. Marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug, putting it in the same category as heroin and LSD as one of the highest risk substances with no medicinal benefits. Clearly, the majority of the country disagrees with this classification but it will take time to shift its status on a federal level.
The Trump administration has been presenting itself to be opposed to legalizing marijuana. Long time prohibitionist Jeff Sessions is the current Attorney General and has been pushing towards a crackdown on the plant. He has been vocal about his belief in making the plant illegal. He is in the minority of the country, however, and it seems that sooner or later the laws are bound to change, allowing veterans to get the medication they deserve to have after serving their country.