New bill would force VA to study medical cannabis

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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

A bipartisan bill has been introduced by Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) that would force the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to study how medical cannabis could benefit veterans. Many veterans currently use medical cannabis for ailments like PTSD, chronic pain and other issues, but VA doctors are at this time not allowed to prescribe cannabis.

“The VA needs to listen to the growing number of veterans who have already found success in medicinal cannabis in easing their pain and other symptoms,” Tester said in a statement. “Our bill will make sure the VA takes proactive steps to explore medicinal cannabis as a safe and effective alternative to opioids for veterans suffering from injuries or illness received in the line of duty.”

Veterans and some politicians have grown frustrated with the VA’s refusal to take medical cannabis as seriously as they’d like, and they want the VA to study the benefits of medical cannabis—hoping it will eventually be prescribed by VA doctors. That said, so many veterans say it’s helped them, some think it should just be accepted by the VA immediately.

“Science can be helpful, but it means very little to me in this case,” Roger Martin, founder of the nonprofit the HeroGrown Foundation, told Cannabis News Box. “Over the past 5+ years, literally thousands of Veterans have told me to my face that cannabis is the ONLY thing that has helped them with PTSD and chronic pain… not one drug the VA has given them has helped with PTSD.”

Martin believes that despite so much evidence medical cannabis is helping veterans, the VA chooses to resist prescribing it because of what he sees as a conflict of interest. He believes pharmaceutical companies are pressuring the VA to keep using their drugs.

“The caregivers that I deal with at the Denver VA have become more open to the idea,” Martin said. “However, it’s the government bureaucrats and politicians who are lining their pockets with donations and perks from big pharmaceutical companies who are preventing caregivers from offering vets a safe alternative to the deadly prescription drug cocktails that now take the lives of more than 50 vets a day from prescription drug overdose and suicide.”

Martin said serving in the military is a lot more dangerous than using cannabis, and veterans should have the right to use cannabis for problems they live with from serving their country. The veteran community has been hit especially hard by the opioid epidemic, and Martin thinks cannabis usage could help reduce that problem.

“If these heroes have not earned the right to choose what medicine they use to treat their medical conditions, who has?” Martin asked.