Although many lawmakers will argue against the legalization of medical marijuana, there have been many who argue in favor of its potential benefits. Over the years people have seen firsthand what marijuana can do for many different illnesses. From cancer to seizures and beyond, marijuana can be used in many different ways that limit the potential for dangerous overdoses like many chemical drugs used today.
Now, lawmakers in favor of medical marijuana are urging The Department of Veteran Affairs to look into the benefits of cannabis and make a judgment call to begin using it as treatment. The VA has been credited with many major accomplishments in the past including the cardiac pacemaker, shingles vaccine, and the first successful liver transplant just to name a few of their most successful accomplishments.
VA lawmakers are urging the VA to begin a study on cannabis. In a recent letter marked Oct. 26 to VA Secretary David Shulkin, the lawmakers cited the country’s growing opioid epidemic that is killing thousands for a reason to look into the potential of medical marijuana.
According to Task and Purpose:
VA research into medical marijuana, the lawmakers wrote, is “integral to the advancement of health care for veterans and the nation.”
“There’s the possibility research can help inform not just veterans’ care, but everyone’s care,” said Griffin Anderson, press secretary for Democrats on the committee.
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., is the ranking Democrat on the committee and a retired command Sergeant Major with the Minnesota Army National Guard. He’s one of nine Democrats and an Independent who signed the letter Thursday. The others are: Reps. Mark Takano, D-Calif.; Julia Brownley, D-Calif.; Ann Kuster, D-N.H.; Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas; Kathleen Rice, D-NY; J. Luis Correa, D-Calif.; Kilili Sablan, I-Northern Mariana Islands; Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., and Scott Peters, D-Calif.
The letter marks the first instance that the leadership of the Veterans Affairs Committee in the House or Senate has urged a VA secretary to conduct research on medical marijuana, Anderson said. Only recently, medical marijuana was thought of as a “fringe issue” by staff of committee Democrats.
The timing of the letter was based on Shulkin’s comments regarding medical marijuana in May, followed by months of advocacy from groups such as the American Legion. During a “State of the VA” address at the White House, Shulkin, who is also a practicing physician, acknowledged there was some evidence marijuana could be effective as a medical treatment and said he was open to learning more about it.
“The secretary expressed interest to look into this. I think he was speaking from a personal standpoint, but it was on a public stage,” said Megan Bland, a staff member for committee Democrats. “When you look at that, and take the veterans’ suicide rates, the opioid crisis and the complexity of post-traumatic stress disorder, it just makes so much sense that if there’s a solution, we should explore it.”
Since May, the American Legion has strongly advocated for more research into medical marijuana. At its national convention in August, the organization adopted a resolution urging the VA to allow doctors to discuss and recommend medical marijuana in states where it’s legal. That’s in addition to a resolution that the group passed the previous year asking for marijuana to be removed from the list of Schedule I drugs, which include with heroin, LSD, ecstasy and others designated as having no medical use.
The Legion has been supportive of research in Phoenix, Ariz., that is the first federally approved study of marijuana’s effects on veterans with PTSD.
Louis Celli, a leader within the Legion, said the organization is trying to prove to lawmakers that medical marijuana is a politically safe topic.
Celli described the letter that lawmakers sent on Oct. 26 as “the beginning of the snowball.” He noted it carried weight being led by Walz, whom Celli called a “major player in the veteran community.”
“The U.S. government has to address this issue… they can’t turn a blind eye and pretend it’s not coming to critical mass,” Celli said. “If veteran research could lead the way for a national, medical shift in the efficacy of cannabis and start that dialogue, that’s good for America.”
Staff for Democrats on the House committee found no regulatory barriers that would prevent the VA from immediately researching medical marijuana. Bland said the VA already possesses a Schedule I license, which is required by the Drug Enforcement Administration to study marijuana.
Lawmakers asked Shulkin to respond to their letter by Nov. 14, with either a commitment to develop research into medical marijuana or a detailed reason for why the VA can’t.
“Everything we looked at suggests the VA can pursue this tomorrow,” Bland said. “And if they can’t, we want them to tell us why they can’t, with the idea that hopefully, we’d be able to help them overcome those barriers in the next year.”
With the growing opioid epidemic that our country faces today, the VA and lawmakers owe it to the public to look into the benefits of marijuana for the sake of their citizens. Over the years researchers have seen first hand what medical marijuana can do for people as opposed to dangerous chemicals that are polluting our streets. At this point in time, there is no reason not to look deeper into these issues because let’s face it, what we are doing now just doesn’t work anymore.
H/T Task and Purpose