The resolution urges the United States government to give VA physicians permission to discuss and recommend medical cannabis.
The nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization has adopted a resolution urging federal officials to expand legal access of medical cannabis to veterans. The American Legion passed the resolution at its annual convention in Reno, Nevada last month.
Current federal policy prohibits Veterans Affairs doctors from recommending medical cannabis, forcing military veterans seek guidance from medical professionals that are out of network.
The resolution, authored by American Legion member Rob Ryan, calls on the “United States government to permit VA medical providers to be able to discuss with veterans the use of marijuana for medical purposes and recommend it in those states where medical marijuana laws exist.” Ryan told Military.com that many veterans have privately admitted to using cannabis as an alternative to opioids, which carry a high risk of abuse.
“Our state congressman, when the American Legion says something, they listen. Hopefully, this will have the same impact at the federal level,” said Ryan. “People should not be afraid to go to their doctors and talk honestly.”
The language of the resolution is similar to the Veterans Equal Access Act (H.R. 1820), an amendment that would have been part of the 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill if the House Rules Committee hadn’t blocked it. Last year, the measure passed the House as part of the VA appropriations bill with a vote of 233-189, and passed the Senate with a vote of 89-9, but was then removed from final legislation during negotiations to reconcile the differences between the two versions.
Dr. Sue Sisley, a psychiatrist studying cannabis’s effects on PTSD, referred to the new American Legion resolution as a “game changer.”
“Year after year, we’ve never been able to pass the Veterans Equal Access amendment,” Sisley said. “With the full weight of the American Legion behind this next round of legislation, I know we can finally get this approved.”
The American Legion has publicly called for medical cannabis policy changes for veterans several times in the recent past, specifically urging for the rescheduling of cannabis to allow for more research on how the substance may benefit veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Earlier this summer, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin acknowledged that evidence indicates cannabis could be beneficial, but reiterated that VA physicians will remain prohibited from recommending it until it’s rescheduled under federal law. The organization has requested a meeting with White House officials to discuss rescheduling marijuana to open research opportunities.
Classified as a Schedule I substance, marijuana is prohibited under federal law. However, 29 U.S. states and Washington D.C. have passed their own laws permitting the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes. The VA is required to follow all federal laws regarding marijuana use.
You can learn about what research has so far discovered about cannabis’s effects on PTSD and TBI by visiting our education page. Keep up with the latest developments in the cannabis industry through our news feed.