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veterans

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 10, 2019

    Marijuana and OpioidsMilitary veterans who participate in a state’s medical marijuana access program frequently report substituting cannabis for alcohol and other controlled substances, according to data published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

    A team of investigators from Palo Alto University in California, Harvard University, and the Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia surveyed marijuana use patterns in 93 US military veterans participating in a medical cannabis collective.

    Nearly 80 percent of respondents reported using cannabis “to treat both physical and mental health symptoms.” Respondents were most likely to report using cannabis therapeutically to mitigate symptoms of chronic pain (69 percent), anxiety (66 percent), post-traumatic stress (59 percent), and depression (56 percent).

    Over 60 percent of respondents said that they consumed cannabis as a substitute for other illicit or licit substances, particularly alcohol. Nearly half of all respondents said that they use medical cannabis in place of other prescription medications.

    Authors concluded, “The current study also confirms the findings of previous studies that have documented a trend in substitution behavior, where cannabis is substituted for other drugs, which, if associated with reduced harm, could be beneficial for overall health.”

    Under existing federal regulation, physicians affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs may not legally provide the paperwork necessary for veterans to obtain medical cannabis in states that regulate its access.

    The abstract of the study, “A cross-sectional examination of choice and behavior of veterans with access to free medicinal cannabis,” is online here. Additional information is available in the NORML fact-sheet “Marijuana and Veteran Issues.”

  • by NORML January 31, 2019

    Seventy-five percent of military veterans say that they would consider using either "cannabis or cannabinoid products as a treatment option," according to member survey data compiled by the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). The organization represents over 400,000 veterans nationwide.

    Under existing federal regulations, physicians affiliated with the Department of Veteran Affairs are forbidden from providing medical cannabis recommendations, even in jurisdictions that legally permit private practitioners to do so.

    “Federal lawmakers must stop discriminating against veterans with regard to matters of marijuana and health," said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. "These men and women put on the uniform to defend this nation’s freedoms and it is the height of hypocrisy for the federal government to deny them rights afforded to the millions of other Americans who reside in states where access to medical cannabis is legally recognized.”

    Overall, 83 percent of respondents expressed support for legalizing medical cannabis access, and 68 percent believe that the Department of Veterans Affairs "should allow for research into cannabis as a treatment option." Proposed federal legislation to direct the agency to conduct clinical trials on the use of cannabis for PTSD and for other conditions is currently pending in the US House and Senate.

    Twenty percent of those surveyed acknowledged having previously used cannabis for medical purposes. Other studies have estimated that as many as 41 percent of veterans acknowledge having consumed cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Available data documents that cannabis is effective in the treatment of chronic pain and may potentially mitigate symptoms of post-traumatic stress, along with other conditions commonly facing veterans.

    Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet, "Marijuana and Veterans Issues," here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 18, 2018

    United States Rep. Timothy Waltz (D-MN), along with over 30 bipartisan co-sponsors, has introduced legislation, HR 5520: The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018, to facilitate federally-sponsored clinical research into the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis among veterans.

    The legislation states: “In carrying out the responsibilities of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, … the Secretary may conduct and support research relating to the efficacy and safety of forms of cannabis … on the health outcomes of covered veterans diagnosed with chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions the Secretary determines appropriate.”

    According to nationwide survey data compiled by The American Legion, 39 percent of respondents affirmed that they “know a veteran” who is using the plant medicinally. Twenty-two percent of respondents said they themselves “use cannabis to treat a mental or physical condition.” Yet, VA Secretary David Shulkin has consistently rejected calls from veterans groups and lawmakers to study the use of cannabis among military veterans.

    Passage of HR 5520 explicitly authorizes “the Secretary to conduct and support research on the efficacy and safety of medicinal cannabis.”

    Representative Walz, who is the ranking member of the House VA committee, said: “While we know cannabis can have life-saving effects on veterans suffering from chronic pain or PTSD, there has been a severe lack of research studying the full effect of medicinal cannabis on these veterans. Simply put, there is no department or organization better suited to conduct this critically important research than VA, and there will never be a better time to act.”

    Please click here to urge your federal lawmakers to support HR 5520: The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 30, 2017

    medical_mj_shelfMembers of the US House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs are demanding the Department of Veterans Affairs facilitate protocols to assess the efficacy of medical cannabis in veterans suffering from chronic pain and post-traumatic stress.

    Minnesota Democrat Tim Walz, along with nine other Democrat members of the Committee, authored an October 26, 2017 letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin stating: “[The] VA 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. … VA’s pursuit of research into the impact of medical marijuana on the treatment of veterans diagnosed with PTSD who are also experiencing chronic pain is integral to the advancement of health care for veterans and the nation. We ask VA to respond … with a commitment to the development of VHA-led research into this issue.”

    In September, representatives from The American Legion addressed a separate letter to VA Secretary Shulkin encouraging the VA assist in an ongoing, FDA-approved clinical trial assessing the safety and efficacy of various strains of cannabis in veterans with PTSD. To date, the VA has refused to assist in patient recruitment for the trial. The VA has yet to publicly respond to the Legion’s letter.

    Survey data finds that military veterans report using cannabis therapeutically at rates far higher than the do those in the general population, and that many are already using it as an alternative to conventional medications in the treatment of pain and post-traumatic stress.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director September 20, 2017

    legion_displayFor more than a year, The American Legion has been calling on the federal government – and specifically the Veterans Affairs Department – to support research into the therapeutic benefits of cannabis in treating veterans with PTSD.

    Many veterans, especially Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans, have told both the Legion and NORML that they have been able to eliminate or reduce their dependency on other drugs, specifical opioids.

    Now, the Legion is ramping up their efforts to convince VA Secretary Shulkin to expand research into the therapeutic and medicinal effects of cannabis.

    In a letter sent yesterday and released publicly today, they state:

    Dear Mr. Secretary:

    For more than a year, the American Legion has called on the federal government to support and enable scientific research to clinically confirm the medicinal value of cannabis. The National Academy of Medicine recently reviewed 10,000 scientific abstracts on the therapeutic value of cannabis and reached nearly 100 conclusions in a report issued earlier this year. As a two million member strong veteran service organization, our primary interest and advocacy is grounded in the wellbeing and improved health of our veterans, and specifically our service disabled veterans.

    The American Legion supports VA’s statutory medical research million and has donated millions of dollars toward expanding VA’s scientific research. VA innovation is widely championed for its breakthrough discoveries in medicine and has been recognized over the years with three Nobel Prizes for scientific work that has benefitted the world over.

    Your immediate attention in this important matter is greatly appreciated. We ask for your direct involvement to ensure this critical research is fully implemented.

    Sincerely,
    Denise H. Rohan
    National Commander

    This comes just one month after the Legion adopted a resolution calling on federal officials to expand veterans’ access to medical marijuana.

    NORML has documented the longitudinal data on how cannabis access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, opioid-related traffic fatalities, and opioid-related overdose deaths

    You can read the full letter to VA urging cannabis research access here.

    Click here to send a message to your federal officials in support of HR 1820, the bipartisan Veterans Equal Access Act introduced by Congressional Cannabis Caucus Co-Chair Earl Blumenauer

    Earlier this year, a budget amendment that reflected the Veterans Equal Access Act’s language was introduced by Senator Daines (R-MT) and passed in the Senate Appropriations Committee and introduced by Rep. Blumenauer and blocked in the House Rules Committee. The amendments fate will likely be decided in a joint conference committee later this year.

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