The leadership of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus is calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs to allow access to medical cannabis for VA patients as quickly as possible.
Apart from tales of children with Dravet Syndrome, few things over the last decade have moved the chains on access to medical marijuana more than its potential impact on veterans dealing with the physical and emotional toll of their service to their country.
The caucus’s co-chairs Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), David Joyce (R-OH), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Don Young (R-AK) took the lead on Tuesday’s call to action. When sharing the letter with the media, the lawmakers explained that the latest push comes amid growing frustration within the veteran community. A community that has been active in medical marijuana issues around the country in search of more effective treatment options for their peers battling opioid addiction and managing PTSD among other health issues like multiple sclerosis and seizure disorders.
“Research has shown that cannabis can be safe and effective in targeted pain management. Additionally, cannabis has proven benefits in managing PTSD and other health issues, including multiple sclerosis and seizure disorders,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter addressed to VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “Despite its efficacy, antiquated bureaucratic red-tape continues to deny veterans these life-altering treatments. Congress and several administrations have enacted various well-intentioned intervention attempts, however, over 20 veterans continue to die by suicide each day – it is past time we stop barring access from these innovative therapies. We therefore respectfully urge you to ensure no veteran can be denied medically prescribed cannabis treatments.”
The caucus leadership went on to note they don’t want those who have served their country getting caught up in the political theatre surrounding medical marijuana that seems more absurd by the year as evidence continues to pile up.
“America’s veterans have risked life and limb to preserve our freedoms, so we must not allow the unnecessary politicization of medical cannabis to hinder their lifesaving therapies,” the caucus wrote. “We stand ready to work with you and your administration in advancing these necessary treatments.”
Despite the mounting evidence, there has been little hope on the issue for the estimated 11-20% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom that experience PTSD. Additionally, 12% of Desert Storm and 30% of Vietnam Veterans are believed to suffer from symptoms of PTSD.
“Given these staggering statistics, your agency has no time to waste in exploring alternative opioid and PTSD therapies,” the lawmakers wrote.
The caucus also cited research from Air Force Captain Carl Beyer at the University of California Davis Medical Center and the David Grant Air Force Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base that found almost 15% of Purple Heart recipients developed persistent opioid use. Even worse, a total of 6.7% were found to move on to full-blown opioid abuse.
The lawmakers also noted that compared to the general U.S. population, VA patients had nearly twice the rate of fatal accidental poisoning. Opioid use disorder is also seven times higher among veterans at the VA compared to patients in private health facilities.