When it comes to medical marijuana, the federal government doesn’t appear to be warming up to the idea anytime soon – despite the fact that over half of the United States has decided to make it legal. During a congressional hearing on Tuesday, Trump Administration officials from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) made it clear that they are not supporting three separate pieces of legislation that aim to ensure research into medical marijuana as well as provide access for veterans in states where it is legal.
“This is the first time we’ve had a hearing like this with a substantive committee,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said. “One of the great tragedies of our time is the failure to adequately address the needs of veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan… An overwhelming number of veterans tell me that cannabis has reduced PTSD symptoms [and] the dependency on addictive opioids.”
The Veterans Equal Access Act would require the VA to conduct clinical trials researching the potential medical marijuana has to treat conditions like PTSD. The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act and the Veterans Cannabis Use for Safe Healing Act are both similar – but both of those would allow VA physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients if they are in states where it is legal
It seems that the concern for many lawmakers is the fact that these laws conflict directly with federal laws that leave cannabis a Schedule I drug. Some, like Dr. Keita Franklin, the National Director of Suicide Prevention for the departments of the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, believe that research and clinical trials with human subjects are too far off and that the risks and safety concerns are too high (even though countless studies prove otherwise).
“The VFW agrees that veterans relying on the VA health care system must have access to medicinal cannabis if such therapies are proven to be effective in assisting and treating certain health conditions,” Franklin said. “Without such evidence, VA would not have the ability to prescribe or provide medicinal cannabis to veterans. It is unacceptable for VA providers to recommend a treatment that is unavailable to veterans at their VA medical facilities.”
While there is significant support for the legislation from numerous lawmakers as well as advocates, it seems that these bills might not advance the way it was originally hoped. Veterans shouldn’t be fighting for access to a medicine that has proven again and again to be safer and more effective in treating PTSD, chronic pain and many other conditions that affect veterans than many of the dangerous drugs they are currently being offered.