A group of 10 U.S. house members is urging the Trump administration to investigate medical marijuana’s potential benefits for military veterans struggling with conditions like pain and PTSD.
A group of lawmakers who sit on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (VA) are collectively pushing the Trump administration to study whether medical marijuana could benefit military veterans.
In an open letter to VA Secretary Shulkin, ten Democratic members of the committee urged the Veterans Health Administration Office of Research and Development (ORD) to start investigating the potential effects of medical marijuana on veterans diagnosed with chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“The Department of Veterans Affairs is uniquely situated to pursue research on the impact of medical marijuana on veterans suffering from chronic pain and PTSD given its access to world class researchers, the population it serves, and its history of overseeing and producing research resulting in cutting-edge medical treatments,” said the group of lawmakers.
Evidence indicates that medical marijuana is effective for managing pain and can help those with PTSD manage anxiety and fear. Earlier this year, researchers found that the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis – cannabidiol (CBD) – reduces acute and long-lasting fear memory.
The American Legion, the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, also recently put pressure on the VA to permit federally-approached research and has publicly called for medical cannabis policy changes for veterans. Weeks ago, the organization adopted a resolution urging federal officials to expand legal access of medical cannabis to veterans.
The VA is required to follow all federal laws regarding marijuana. Because marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance and prohibited under federal law, VA doctors are not permitted to recommend cannabis to veterans for therapeutic purposes. VA Secretary Shulkin has acknowledged that evidence indicates cannabis could be beneficial for addressing conditions that commonly affect veterans, but has reinforced that federal law must change before the VA can prescribe the substance.
“Time and time again I have heard the stories of veterans who have used marijuana medicinally to help them cope with physical and psychological injuries sustained during their service,” said Congressman Tim Walz (D-MN), a Ranking Member in the committee, in a statement. “After hearing from and meeting with veterans and veterans’ advocates from communities across the country, I now know for a fact that research and access to medical marijuana has become a critically important veterans’ issue.”
The other nine Representatives who joined Walz in sending the letter include:
- Mark Takano (D-CA)
- Julia Brownley (D-CA)
- Ann McKlane Kuster (D-NH)
- Beto O’Rourke (D-TX)
- Kathleen Rice (D-NY)
- J. Luis Correa (D-CA)
- Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-MP)
- Elizabeth Esty (D-CT)
- Scott Peters (D-CA)
Studies also indicate that medical marijuana can reduce the intake of prescription opioids, which carry a higher risk of addiction and overdose. A 2011 study of the VA system found that veterans are twice as likely to die from accidental opioid overdoses than non-veterans.
“At no period of time has research into medical marijuana been as critically important as it is now, as there isn’t a single community in America that hasn’t come face-to-face with our nation’s tragic opioid epidemic,” added Walz. “Few populations have been as hurt by the opioid epidemic as our veterans.”
The House lawmakers have asked Shulkin to respond by November 14.
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