Veterans and Cannabis: What the Law Is Now and Where It Could Be Heading
It is well known and widely accepted that active duty military personnel cannot ingest even the slightest bit of THC. But what if they retire? The issue of US military veterans and their access to medical marijuana continues to be the subject of much debate and several legislative proposals in Congress.
As it stands today, military veterans are essentially governed by the laws of the states they live in, but no federal physician in the VA will recommend THC gummies. According to that US Department of Veterans Affairs website“As long as the Food and Drug Administration classifies marijuana as a Schedule I VA, healthcare providers are not allowed to recommend it or help veterans get it.”
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This designation of marijuana as a Schedule I substance raises all sorts of legal issues, from research to a veteran’s right to use marijuana as therapy. It could be argued that it is common medical sense that military veterans should receive whatever treatments are available to them. Additionally, it’s particularly taxing as cannabis has shown promise when it comes to alleviating symptoms related to multiple issues faced by many veterans.
According to NORML, veterans actually use cannabis at higher rates than the general population. “Veterans often report using cannabis to treat symptoms of chronic pain and mood disorders such as post-traumatic stress. Clinical data supports the use of cannabis in these indications.”
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While the Veterans Affairs website also mentions that veterans are not denied VA benefits because of marijuana use, the unavailability of medical marijuana as a treatment option has led to several bills being passed.
There is the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, also referred to as the Safe Harbor Act, whose primary purpose is to provide veterans safe and easy access to medical marijuana through the VA. Veterans’ rights are also a strong focus of almost every marijuana legalization law, including the Democratic-sponsored one Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Actand the Federal Reform Actintroduced by South Carolina Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace. Both bills emphasize the importance of veterans having access to medicinal cannabis.
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“One of the other things I’m really excited about is that the state’s reform bill protects our veterans,” Representative Mace said in a recent Q&A with The Fresh Toast. “So a veteran with PTSD can get a prescription from any VA in the country, regardless of state law.” Mace, who recently won re-election, will continue to push for more support for her States Reform Act.
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She mentioned a touching moment in DC during her re-election campaign when she was in a room with wounded female war veterans. “As soon as we started talking about cannabis, the whole mood in the room changed. We talked about it the rest of the time we had, the rest of the lesson.”
As talks like this continue to take place across the country, only time will tell what the future of these bills will be. But public opinion continues to shift toward legalization fervor. The question is how quickly lawmakers will implement this majority will, because for many veterans it cannot be implemented fast enough.