Disabled American Veterans Calls for More Research Into Medical Cannabis for Veterans

The organization representing more than a million disabled veterans wants more investigation into cannabis’ potential for pain, PTSD, and TBI.

One of the nation’s largest veterans organizations this month urged federal officials to facilitate more research into medical cannabis for veterans.

In a recent article, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) made a public call for more studies into the therapeutic potential of cannabis for “veterans with chronic pain, PTSD and TBIs.”

Founded in 1920 by the United States Congress, DAV was created to represent disabled military veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. It currently has nearly 1.3 million members.

“Our members passed DAV Resolution 023 this year in support of additional research in the use of medical cannabis,” said Marc Burgess, National Adjutant for the DAV. “As veterans, we don’t want to be prescribed a new form of treatment without studies showing it’s safe and effective.”

The DAV specifically encouraged more investigation into cannabis’ potential as an alternative to traditional painkillers. In the article, the DAV describes the growing problem with veterans and opioids in regards to both addiction and overdose.

Presenting data reflecting the relationship between veterans and opioids, the article reads: “According to a 2017 report from the National Center for Health Statistics, the national opioid crisis killed more than 42,000 Americans in 2016. Alarmingly, a 2013 analysis by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that opioid prescriptions for veterans spiked 270 percent over a 12-year period, while a 2011 Department of Veterans Affairs study found that veterans were twice as likely as the rest of the population to die from an opioid overdose.”

Evidence collected so far suggests cannabis could serve as a safe and effective alternative to opioids for addressing pain. A growing number of studies show that opioid overdose rates are significantly lower in states with legal medical marijuana than those without.

Studies also suggest that cannabis holds therapeutic potential for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by lessening the emotional impact and anxiety related to traumatic events, and traumatic brain injury (TBI) by limiting brain damage and improving recovery.

veteran legal marijuana

Reforming Federal Law

At the federal level, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. That federal policy hinders the collection of data and prohibits doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from recommending medical marijuana to veterans, even in states where it has been legalized.

The DAV specifically voiced support for two pieces of federal legislation they believe will help better service disabled veterans through the VA.

First, the organization spotlighted the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 (H.R. 5520). The bipartisan bill, introduced earlier this year by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe and ranking member Tim Walz, would give the VA permission to allow veterans to access cannabis for the treatment of pain and PTSD.

It would also facilitate federally-sponsored clinical research into the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis among veterans.

Additionally, the organization highlighted the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act (S. 3409), introduced by U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Brian Schatz. The bill would give VA doctors the legal green light to recommend medical marijuana to their veteran patients provided they’re in states that have legalized it.

The bill would also require that the VA research “the effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain” and “the relationship between treatment programs involving medical marijuana that are approved by States, the access of veterans to such programs, and a reduction in opioid abuse among veterans.”

More on Cannabis for Veterans

The American Legion has also repeatedly pushed for medical marijuana policy changes for veterans. More than 9 of 10 military veterans want more investigation into the potential benefits of marijuana, and over 8 of 10 are in favor of allowing VA doctors to recommend cannabis.

You can learn more about research findings regarding medical marijuana by visiting our education page.