Senators Seek to Ease Rules on Military Veterans’ Access to Medical Marijuana

Cannabis may be legal for recreation and medicinal use in California, but that won’t help those on military bases or being treated at a Department of Veteran Affairs facility. Now, the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved an amendment that is intended to increase access to medical marijuana by military veterans. The bill would allow doctors working for the VA to issues recommendations for cannabis as medicine in states where it’s legal. The measure would also bar the federal agency from interfering with or denying services to those military veterans who participate in state-legal cannabis programs.medical marijuana lawyer

The bill’s sponsor noted that despite cannabis being legal as medicine in 37 states, veterans don’t have access to it, even though it’s been shown there may be benefits for treating a variety of issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Veterans, the bill’s sponsor said, should be able to talk to their doctors about the potential benefits.

How Cannabis Prohibition Harms Veterans

A significant number of military veterans suffer from conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although the VA flatly states a lack of evidence that medical marijuana can be used for effective treatment of the condition, a review of five studies of veterans with PTSD using medical marijuana reached conclusions that differed from that of the government.Other countries, such as Israel and Canada, are now leading the charge on medicinal cannabis research. This matters because most of the U.S. analysis we do have on soldiers, PTSD and medical cannabis involves a heavy reliance on self-reporting from patients – because federal prohibition means researchers can’t actually conduct tests with it directly.

And while much of the discussion about veterans and medical marijuana centers on PTSD, the reality is veterans also suffer from higher rates of other conditions – such as cancer, pain and insomnia – whose symptoms can be effectively treated with cannabis.

The Veterans Cannabis Coalition report that some 2 million veterans report using cannabis to treat injuries that are directly connected to their military service. The coalition argues that cannabis is better for veterans’ health than many of the powerful – and toxic – pharmaceuticals they are prescribed for these conditions.

A recent survey conducted by the American Legion revealed more than 90 percent of veterans support research into medical cannabis and more than 80 percent support legalizing medical cannabis. That’s much higher than even the wider population.

Department of Defense Advises Against Active Duty Personnel Investing in Marijuana

For so long as marijuana is prohibited at the federal level, it’s unlikely the military is going to be on board (which is why a bill from Congress could be a game-changer). Earlier this year, the Department of Defense started issuing notices to inform military personnel that the Central Adjudication Facility of the department “negatively views” any personal investment in companies that make, sell or distribute marijuana. They could be stripped of their security clearance just for owning stock in these companies.

Veterans who have already left the military may find these barriers easier to overcome, but for active duty and reserves, the government’s position seems clear – at least for now.

If you have been administratively sanctioned for marijuana-related activities, our Los Angeles medical marijuana attorneys can help.

Additional Resources:

Senators Vote To Expand Medical Marijuana Access For Military Veterans In Key Committee, Aug. 4, 2021, By Kyle Jaeger, Marijuana Moment

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