A new poll sponsored by The American Legion has found that 81% of U.S. military veterans want to have the option to use medical marijuana without being treated as a criminal, and that one in five veterans already uses medical cannabis and that 92% of veterans support expanding medical marijuana research. The poll also found that the majority of veterans surveyed who are using cannabis are over the age of 60.
Under current U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs policy, government doctors are not allowed to give out MMJ recommendations to veterans who wish to use medical marijuana. The VA also block federally-approved researchers from recruiting veterans for research on medical cannabis.
The survey was commissioned by the American Legion which represents more than 2.4 million military veterans and has been lobbying the federal government over the past year to reform medical cannabis policies, calling for down-scheduling of the drug. In August of 2017, the organization called on the VA to let its doctors write medical marijuana recommendations, stating, “More than half the states in the union have passed medical marijuana laws to date. The American Legion urges the United States government to permit VA medical providers to be able to discuss with veterans the use of marijuana for medical purposes and recommend it in those states where medical marijuana laws exist.”
Last month, researchers looking for subjects to study marijuana’s effects on PTSD were prevented from gaining access to veterans at the Phoenix, Arizona VA hospital. The Legion wrote to VA Secretary David Shulkin on the issue, saying, “This study needs 50 more participants and the Phoenix VA is in the best possible position to assist by simply allowing principle investigators to brief [VA] medical staff on the progress of the study, and by allowing clinicians to reveal the existence of the study to potential participants. Your immediate attention in this important matter is greatly appreciated. We ask for your direct involvement to ensure this critical research is fully enabled.”
Several members of Congress attending the press conference at which the Legion released the results of its poll spoke up in support of the Legion’s efforts. Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) praised the group’s advocacy on the issue, saying it would help convince more lawmakers to support policy change.
Gaetz also took the opportunity to condemn “in the strongest possible terms” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s recent remarks comparing the proliferation of medical marijuana to the overprescription of opioids. “It is shortsighted, it is inaccurate and it is indefensible to suggest that the proliferation of medical cannabis that is saving lives and improving the quality of life for people is somehow analogous to the opioid crisis.”
Gaetz is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and says they will hold a hearing on expanding marijuana research by year’s end.