A group of lawmakers in the Veterans Affairs Committee in Congress are pushing to allow Veterans Affairs to conduct medical marijuana research. As it currently stands, VA cannot research marijuana or refer patients to other cannabis studies, because cannabis continues to be strictly prohibited on the federal level.
"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 Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), the ranking member of the House VA committee. "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."
That's why Walz has introduced the bill to allow the VA to study medical marijuana. And he's already getting support from across the aisle.
"Until we have sound science behind whether or not medical cannabis is an effective treatment, we should not move forward with prescribing it," said Republican Rep. Phil Roe (TN), who is also the chairman of the VA Committee. "I believe VA is uniquely equipped to conduct this important research," he added.
Despite the fact that the VA does not officially support medical marijuana, there are plenty of veterans who are already using it. And many believe that cannabis is a far better treatment then the highly addictive and potentially lethal opioids they would commonly be prescribed.
"Medical marijuana saved me," Joshua James Frey - a former Marine and two-time Purple Heart recipient - said last fall. "I feel like I did before the war [in Iraq] mentally and…know this could help not just the veterans struggling, but it could help anyone struggling with addiction and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). It’s time we all stand as one voice and truly move forward with real hard-lined research and move forward with real compassionate care."
Montana Senator Jon Tester thinks it's time for Congress to listen to those vets.
"Veterans must have a say in how they manage their pain and the VA needs to listen to those veterans who are finding relief in medicinal cannabis," said Tester, who plans on introducing the companion legislation in the upper chamber.
Hopefully these bills will lead to a major victory for veterans on Capitol Hill.