Veterans who support medical cannabis respond to Trump’s VA pick


Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

Veterans who support medical cannabis aren’t quite sure what to make of Trump’s latest leadership shakeup. Trump recently fired VA Secretary David Shulkin and replaced him with his physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson. Jackson is an active-duty rear admiral in the Navy, but he has no experience running an organization like the VA.

American Legion has said it was unhappy with how Shulkin handled medical cannabis issues and hopes Jackson will be different, but things are very unclear at the moment.

“The American Legion will work with whoever is sitting in the VA secretary’s seat, just as we did with Dr. Shulkin,” Joe Plenzler, the Legion’s director of media relations told The Cannabist. “Regarding medical marijuana research, our objectives remain unchanged.”

Sean Kiernan, president of the Weed for Warriors Project, told Cannabis News Box he’s disappointed with how Trump has handled veteran issues, and it’s clear that he didn’t put much effort into choosing a qualified VA leader. Jackson’s lack of experience could seriously harm veterans who need him to do a good job.

“President Trump appears to be taking veterans issues as seriously as most of Washington, D.C.,” Kiernan said. “There always is an amazing effort made at glad-handing veterans by our political class. However, if you look at what is actually being done, you have to surmise veterans are not a priority.”

Kiernan made it clear that the person he believes needs to be taken off Trump’s roster in order to help veterans is Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is trying to crack down on legal cannabis.

“The Trump Administration’s policy on cannabis has been cruel to veterans, and we can thank the Attorney General’s office for that,” he said. “To be blunt, I don’t see any positive change on the horizon for cannabis access while Sessions is in office.”

In terms of what he hopes for when it comes to Jackson leading the VA, Kiernan said he hopes Jackson leads like a doctor, not a politician. He said if Jackson looks at the medical evidence and supports cannabis access for veterans, that’d be an improvement to previous VA leaders. Because we don’t have any leadership history to look at when it comes to Jackson, all veterans can do for now is wait and see.

“As a doctor, there should be only one stance in the face of the suicide and overdose epidemic: Cannabis should be an available treatment option for all veterans,” Kiernan said.