Wednesday, May 27, 2020
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Congress Presses VA To Begin Researching Medical Marijuana

A bipartisan bill introduced this week would effectively erase the Department of Veterans Affairs’ excuse for not researching the benefits of cannabis for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other related ailments. The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 would eliminate the federal foot-dragging preventing vets from the medicine they need.

The bill has received the backing of the top Republican and Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee: Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn, and Chairman Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. Other influential lawmakers have voiced their support.

“While we know cannabis can have life-saving effects on veterans suffering from chronic pain or PTSD, there has been a severe lack of research studying the full effect of medicinal cannabis on these veterans,” said Waltz. “That is why I am so proud to introduce this legislation. Simply put, there is no department or organization better suited to conduct this critically important research than VA, and there will never be a better time to act.”

Waltz also took a shot at the VA for its tendency to over-prescribe opioids. “In fact, 22 percent of veterans report using cannabis as a safer and more effective alternative to opioids and drug cocktails currently prescribed by VA for medical conditions such as PTSD or chronic pain; unfortunately, we are all too familiar with the dangerous and often deadly side effects associated with opioids.”

This is welcome news for our retired military personnel. According to the Military Times:

For months, Walz and veterans advocates have been pushing Veterans Affairs officials to more aggressively explore research into marijuana’s possible benefits for patients with a host of ailments, as a possible alternative to addictive opioids.

But department leaders have insisted that federal law restricts their ability to conduct most medical marijuana testing, and have refused those requests for expansion.

This legislation kills that Catch-22 argument. The bill specifically addresses hurdles identified by the VA in a previous letter, with two main goals; (1) “Clarifying that research into medicinal cannabis is well within the authority of VA.” and (2) “Requiring VA to report to Congress on how it intends to exercise that authority.”

“As a physician, I am keenly aware of the need to look for opioid alternatives to treat patients’ chronic pain,” said Rep. Roe. “Since serving as Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I’ve heard from many veterans, both with physical and invisible wounds, who believe medical cannabis could benefit them. This is why I support the department researching cannabis just like any other drug to see if this alternative therapy would truly benefit patients.”

Bill co-sponsor, Rep Lou Correa said, “I am honored to join Chairman Roe and Ranking Member Walz, and Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Jon Tester in finally taking action to help veterans in need of medical cannabis … with the opioid crisis raging across American, it is imperative to the health and safety of our veterans that we find alternative treatments for chronic pain and service-related injuries.”


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