U.S. military veterans from diverse backgrounds have been testifying before Congress in recent weeks about the need to expand Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) research into medical marijuana’s benefits.
At a series of joint House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearings, representatives of Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and other groups have discussed their legislative priorities for the 116th Congress—cannabis reform being one of them.
DAV included “Support VA research into the efficacy of cannabis for service-connected disabled veterans” as one of its asks in written testimony.
Vincent Lawrence, commander-in-chief of VFW, expanded on that position in his testimony to the committees.
He said that the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury among veterans “have been thrust into the forefront of the medical community and the general public in large part due to suicides and overmedication of veterans.” But it also demonstrates the need for the VA to study the potential benefits of medical cannabis, he said.
“For veterans who use medical cannabis and are also VA patients, they are doing this without the medical understanding or proper guidance from their coordinators of care at VA,” he wrote. “This is not to say VA providers are opting to ignore this medical treatment, but that there is currently a lack of federal research and understanding of how medical marijuana may or may not treat certain illnesses and injuries, and the way it interacts with other drugs.”
But Lawrence pointed out that preliminary research shows that “states that have legalized medical cannabis have also seen a 15-35 percent decrease in opioid overdose and abuse.”
“There is currently substantial evidence from a comprehensive study by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academic Press that concludes cannabinoids are effective for treating chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, sleep disturbances related to obstructive sleep apnea, multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms, and fibromyalgia –– all of which are prevalent in the veteran population,” he wrote.
Lawrence encouraged Congress to pass legislation that would “require VA to conduct a federally funded study with veteran participants for medical cannabis,” including veterans with PTSD, chronic pain and cancer.
A number of bills have already been filed in Congress this year that would achieve that goal. The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act specifically mandates that the VA conduct clinical trials on the effects of cannabis for conditions that commonly afflict veterans such as chronic pain and PTSD.
Published: March 21, 2019
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