What do expert groups such as the American Public Health Association, the American Nurses
Association, and the American College of Physicians have in common? They are but a few of the medica
community professionals that support veterans’ access to cannabis. Add in the great number of veteran
groups that have been specifically created to support an equal and fair access to cannabis and one has
to wonder why legislative attempts go nowhere. These collectives and coalitions dutifully served the
country as servicemen and servicewomen. And now they are dutifully reminding the U.S. government o
the responsibility, morally and ethically, to provide the best care for our returning warriors.

 The root of the issue can be found in the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA is a federal healthcare
system, and as such, cannot follow the state laws where cannabis is legal. So, irrespective of a states’
legal status around cannabis, a VA doctor cannot and will not recommend treatment options in the form of cannabis. And in many cases, this also includes CBD as it has not been fully approved by the FDA. Also, patients may be reluctant to discuss cannabis alternatives with their primary care doctor out of concern over any possibility of losing their veterans benefits. The VA claims it will not deny benefits, yet a referral to a drug abuse program would typically be the expected outcome and that the patient’s
admission of use would be entered into their VA medical records.

The types of conditions that medical cannabis can treat are well known and documented. Those
conditions can include, but are not limited to: cancer, chemotherapy-induced nausea, glaucoma,
multiple sclerosis, and specific categories of seizures. Yet these are not the conditions that veterans are
returning with. Cannabis has also been proven to be effective in treating chronic pain, brain injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorders. Those conditions are most common among returning veterans.
Americans are quite familiar with the opiate crisis that has taken hold over the last decade. Some data
show that prescriptions peaked in 2012 with declining numbers since.  So why do overdose deaths from
opiate abuse continue to rise? Alarmingly, a report published in 2013 by the Center for Investigative
Reporting found opioid prescriptions for veterans spiked 270 percent over a 12-year period from 2001
to 2012, and that a 2011 Department of Veterans Affairs study found that during 2004 and 2005,
veterans receiving the highest doses of opioid painkillers were twice as likely than the rest of the
population to die from an opioid overdose.  Let’s compare those numbers with a recent study by the
American Legion. It reports that 22% of veterans already are using cannabis for medicinal purposes and that 92% of veterans support research into medical cannabis. Furthermore, 83% of all veteran
households support legalizing medical cannabis.

 Currently there are 18 co-sponsors on H.R. 1647, “To authorize Department of Veterans Affairs health
care providers to provide recommendations and opinions to veterans regarding participation in State
marijuana programs”.  These are the bill’s sponsors, and as we wrap up our Veterans Day and week,
please take the time to let them know of your support:

Rep. Amash, Justin [R-MI-3]
Rep. Gallego, Ruben [D-AZ-7]
Rep. Perlmutter, Ed [D-CO-7]
Rep. Young, Don [R-AK-At Large]
Rep. Peters, Scott H. [D-CA-52

Rep. DeFazio, Peter A. [D-OR-4]
Rep. Gaetz, Matt [R-FL-1]
Rep. Cohen, Steve [D-TN-9]
Rep. Massie, Thomas [R-KY-4]
Rep. Lee, Barbara [D-CA-13]
Rep. Titus, Dina [D-NV-1]
Rep. McCollum, Betty [D-MN-4]
Rep. Norton, Eleanor Holmes [D-DC-At Large]
Rep. Correa, J. Luis [D-CA-46]
Rep. Joyce, David P. [R-OH-14]
Rep. Crist, Charlie [D-FL-13]
Rep. Luria, Elaine G. [D-VA-2]
Rep. Lieu, Ted [D-CA-33]