Veterans advocacy group is urging congress to permit VA research on medical weed

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

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Tired federal policies are restricting veterans’ access to medicinal-grade weed.

This is according to a well-known veterans advocacy group called the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, or the IAVA.

Members of the support group want to see the commencement of research on cannabis for veterans that will ultimately determine the efficacy of using the green plant to relieve common symptoms experienced by servicemen, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and pain.  

Cannabis for veterans campaign was launched last week

Things were set into motion when a #CannabisForVets campaign was launched by the nonpartisan support group. Based on the details of IAVA’s campaign to legalize cannabis for veterans, the advocacy group is prompting “all patriotic Americans” to encourage the Congressional passing of the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018.

If the Bill goes ahead, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will be legally allowed to investigate the suitability of cannabis for veterans who have been diagnosed with mental and physical conditions caused by their time spent in the Military.

“Our government allowed our men and women to handle weapons, warships and the most incredible technology in the world, but it prohibits them from having access to cannabis to treat their wounds,” IAVA disclosed in a news release. “It’s backward and harmful that regressive federal policies still ridiculously prohibit our veterans from having access to something that can lessen their pain, treat their symptoms and improve their lives.”

VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act is top priority for IAVA

First introduced last spring, the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act has encountered delays in spite of bipartisan support in Congress. However, the IAVA affirms that the idea of legalizing medical cannabis for veterans has received plenty of support from servicemen themselves.

At the current time, the drug can be prescribed by a physician in a total of 31 states. VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin threw a spanner in the works a few months back, when he declared that the VA won’t be carrying out research into the plant’s suitability for veterans struggling with chronic pain conditions and the symptoms of PTSD, which may include nightmares, insomnia, and depression.

Conversely, Shulkin did simplify rules that would grant VA doctors the ability to discuss medical cannabis for veterans with their patients. For now, VA physicians are restricted from referring patients for enrollment in medical cannabis programs in states that have not yet legalized the drug. In order to resolve this issue, the top priority for IAVA is to get the cannabis research act passed.

“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,” the group said.

On a positive note, new medical research on the efficacy of cannabis for veterans could soon be released. The first FDA-approved study of cannabis for PTSD in U.S. military veterans is currently in progress. Made possible with a $2.15 million grant from the University of Colorado, the phase two study is expected to reveal new insights into the plant’s medicinal potential as early as next year.