Veterans who have served in armed conflicts often come back with injuries. In fact, the majority of combat veterans that have returned from conflict in the Middle East experienced chronic pain issues. Many take opiates to control their pain, inviting the potential of addiction or overdose. The prevalence of chronic pain issues in veterans has led many to seek alternate methods for managing pain. Medical marijuana is one of the alternatives that many find the most promising. Veterans all over the US are fighting for access to medical marijuana to treat their chronic pain.
Veterans Seeking Access to Medical Marijuana
Veterans want access to medical marijuana for more than just pain management. Many veterans also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and look to medical marijuana to relieve their anxiety. In a study of veterans, family members, and caregivers, over 80% support the legalization of medical cannabis. An almost equal number would like to have access to medical marijuana as an alternative treatment for pain and PTSD.
A growing number of veterans and veterans’ groups are pressing for more research into the efficacy of medical marijuana for pain and PTSD. They rely on the Veterans Administration for their health care, and the VA cannot pursue this research without the consent of Congress. This leaves many veterans unsure about accessing the benefits of marijuana to treat their service-related conditions, often even in states that have legalized marijuana.
The Stance of the Veterans Administration
Currently, the VA bans medical providers from recommending medical marijuana or prescribing any medication that contains CBD or THC. However, the VA maintains that no veteran will lose their benefits if they chose independently to use medical marijuana. This frees veterans who pursue medical marijuana by legal means in their home states to maintain their VA health benefits.
For veterans who are employed by the VA, the situation is different. A condition of employment by the agency is the passing of a drug test, which tests for cannabis along with other regulated substances. The VA maintains the option of terminating the employment of anyone who has evidence of marijuana during a drug test.
The Current Legal Battle
The fight for access to medical marijuana for all Americans, and veterans in particular, is happening on both the state and federal levels.
Individual states are taking action to legalize the medical use of marijuana. Currently, there are 36 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have legalized medical marijuana, though the parameters of access differ from state to state.
The 2020 election may have an impact on the legal status of marijuana in the US. In May of 2021, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York introduced the MORE (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement) act. This act, if passed and signed into law, would decriminalize marijuana, currently a schedule 1 drug in the US. Decriminalizing it would remove marijuana from the list of scheduled substances and take away criminal penalties for manufacturing, possession, and distribution. Passage of this law could clear the way for veterans to access medical marijuana in partnership with their VA benefits.
Options for Veterans
Veterans experience chronic health conditions, such as pain and PTSD-related anxiety, at higher levels than the general population of the US. Many of these veterans look to medical marijuana as a means to manage their chronic conditions instead of opiates.
CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, is legal if it is derived from hemp. CBD alone can be used by many to effectively treat pain and anxiety. CBD products are available in stores and by mail throughout the country.
For some, the addition of THC for treatment is extremely beneficial, too. Those veterans that live in states with legal access to marijuana can take advantage of local dispensaries. In these states, like California, marijuana delivery is just a few clicks away. As the VA has stated officially that the use of medical marijuana will not affect benefits, many veterans in these states choose to manage their chronic conditions on their own through the use of cannabis.
Many veterans live in states with limited or no legal access to marijuana. These men and women face both logistical and legal challenges to obtain medical cannabis. An overwhelming majority of veterans want access to medical marijuana to be legal in the entire country. As these veterans continue to experience the effects of their combat overseas, they are also fighting the battle for access to cannabis as a means of relief.
Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer, and content strategist. She has a passion for yoga and often writes about health and wellness, but also enjoys covering the fashion industry and world of fitness. She works closely with AR MMJ Cards, an affordable, convenient service that gives certification for your medical marijuana card over the internet.