Veterans call for cannabis access

Veterans groups recently told the House and the Senate they want the VA to be able to prescribe medical cannabis to veterans. They also called for the VA to expand research into the possible benefits of cannabis. One of the groups present was the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

“Support for the use of medical cannabis to treat the wounds of war has been growing among the veteran population for years, and [Iraq and
Afghanistan Veterans of America] members have repeatedly voiced their support,” IAVA CEO Jeremy Butler said. “Veterans consistently and
passionately have communicated that cannabis offers effective help in tackling some of the most pressing injuries we face when returning from war.”

Travis Horr, senior director of government affairs at IAVA, told Cannabis News Box that they regularly service their members and have found the vast majority support legalizing medical cannabis and expanding research. Most are also interested in trying it.

“Many veterans have seen positive benefits when they started using medicinal cannabis. Some research has shown that cannabis can be an effective way to treat a number of wounds of war that post-9/11 veterans have, such as chronic pain, anxiety, and others,” Horr said. “Veterans
should have the same access to all levels of care that their civilian counterparts have.”

Horr said the VA has made progress in how they treat veterans that choose to use a legal state-run medicinal program, but there’s still work to be
done. He said the VA still can’t prescribe cannabis because it’s illegal at the federal level. That makes it hard for a lot of veterans to get a prescription for medical cannabis, because they often get all of their medical care at the VA.

“The conversation surrounding medicinal cannabis has gained support on Capitol Hill throughout the years. Support for VA doing research on cannabis has widespread support throughout the veteran service organization (VSO) community which has driven support on Capitol Hill,” Horr said. “The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act is widely supported throughout the VSO community and has been voted out of the House Veterans Affairs Committee for the past two Congresses.”

Horr is hopeful that Congress will act to help veterans who want access to medical cannabis, and they also want to see the VA do a lot more research. It remains to be seen how soon Congress will act if it chooses to act.