While states across the country are pondering whether to decriminalize or fully legalize marijuana for recreational purposes, keep in mind this isn’t the first legalization struggle for cannabis products. Legal medicinal use of marijuana has made significant progress across the country, a fact which could prove very important for veterans suffering from common afflictions.
Of course, the health system doesn’t always move quickly to make new treatments and processes available, nor does the Department of Veterans Affairs. There are still some legal hurdles to be cleared before medical marijuana becomes a standard component of health care for veterans.
According to NBC, many veterans have reported that medical marijuana has helped with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. However, moving to make cannabis available through VA hospitals or other go-to sources of care is difficult. Doctors at VA facilities aren’t just prohibited from prescribing marijuana: The drug is still listed as “Schedule 1,” so these health care professionals can’t even speak about it with their patients.
The news source explained that even a trial on the effects of medical marijuana on veterans’ PTSD symptoms is struggling to get off the ground. The study, which would be the first Food and Drug Association approved study of the drug’s effect on veterans’ psychological health, needs 76 members to be statistically relevant – however, considering the red tape keeping patients from obtaining medical marijuana, only 23 have volunteered thus far.
Veterans who have worked around the VA policy and obtained medical marijuana for their own use have been vocal in their support of legalization. Washington Post columnist Joe Davidson pointed out that an American Legion press conference in November featured testimonials by vets who have used medical cannabis as an alternative to the multi-drug cocktails commonly prescribed to ailing veterans. Speaking at the Legion event, Marine veteran Joshua Frey decried the fact that current VA policy considers medical marijuana use “wrong” and stops doctors and patients from even discussing it.
Military Connection explained that when the Legion ran a poll, 82 percent of respondents stated that medical cannabis should be legalized, and 92 percent want there to be more research about its possible effects and uses. The fact that it’s difficult to even perform studies and determine how cannabis products might help patients is clearly a major, and hard to justify, detriment to changing current policies.
The future of medical marijuana’s use in VA hospitals and beyond may hinge on decisions made in congress. According to The New York Times, lawmakers are pondering their next moves, with Democrats favoring a softer stance on marijuana and an increasing number of Republicans joining the effort. To that end, Florida representatives Darren Soto, a Democrat, and Matt Gaetz, a Republican, co-authored legislation that would change cannabis from Schedule 1 to the much less restricted Schedule 3.
Gaetz stated that the current discussions about marijuana date back to the 70s and 80s. Back then, it was considered a gateway drug that would lead to the use of harder substances. Now, it could be time for a change of approach – if other politicians follow Gaetz’s thinking.