In a veteran-focused meeting with President-elect Donald Trump’s tradition team, the American Legion encouraged the incoming administration to reschedule cannabis to facilitate further research and access to veterans.
In a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team earlier this month, the American Legion urged the administration to support medical marijuana research and reclassify cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act.
Leaders from the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, with now more than 2 million members, told the transition team and representatives from more than 30 other veterans service organizations that rescheduling cannabis from a Schedule I to a Schedule III substance would give veterans easier access to medical cannabis’ therapeutic properties.
The Schedule I classification is reserved for the most dangerous drugs with no recognized medical value and a high risk of abuse. Rescheduling cannabis from Schedule I would encourage further research into its medical potential and increase nationwide access. There was optimism that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) would reclassify marijuana this summer, but the administration announced in August it would be keeping the substance classified as Schedule I. While Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had said she would reschedule cannabis if elected, President-elect Trump’s stance on marijuana has been more indecisive.
The Legion recapped the meeting with Trump’s team in a statement, writing:
“…The American Legion initiated a call-to-action on fairly new Legion priorities – support of research related to the impacts of medical marijuana and the DEA’s reclassification of cannabis from a Schedule I drug to Schedule III. Reclassification of the drug would allow easier access to pure strains of the substance to cultivate quantifiable research and statistics regarding marijuana’s medical benefits.”
Research indicates that medical cannabis is beneficial for lessening the emotional impact of traumatic events and reducing the anxiety and fear associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a common condition among war veterans who have experienced traumatic events, as well as for reducing brain damage following a blow to the head.
As of now, however, Veterans Affairs doctors are prohibited from recommending medical marijuana to veteran patients. Congress did pass legislation in June that removes barriers to VA doctors in states with medical marijuana laws from discussing marijuana as a treatment option, but the bills still don’t allow the VA to provide medical marijuana to veterans or cover its costs.
The Legion had earlier this year passed a resolution calling for Congress to reschedule cannabis under federal law. In it, the Legion argues that with the Drug Enforcement Agency giving its approval to study the effects of medical marijuana on PTSD in April, cannabis should be reclassified to a category that “at a minimum will recognize cannabis as a drug with potential medical value.”
Louis Celli, national director of the Legions’ veterans affairs and rehabilitation division, told Tom Angell of Marijuana.com that Trump officials were initially “somewhat guarded in giving feedback” on issues during the listening session, but when the topic of medical marijuana was brought up, “there was an immediate change in the room.”
Celli told Angell:
“All shuffling stopped, people stopped looking down at their notes, and instantly all eyes were on [Legion Executive Director] Verna Jones and everyone was transfixed and intently hanging on her every word,” Celli said. “I can’t speak for how the transition team felt, but there seemed to be a small shock that snapped the room to attention. No read on how the information was received, but I think they were a little caught off guard and didn’t expect such a progressive statement from such a traditional and conservative organization.”
The American Legion isn’t the only party interested in encouraging President-elect Trump and his administration to reschedule marijuana. Three-year-old Sadie Higuera, who has found cannabidiol (CBD) oil effective for managing her life-threatening seizures, has partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation in hopes of setting up an encounter with Trump to stress the importance of rescheduling cannabis.