The Rise of Medical Cannabis Use for U.S. Veterans

In recent years, a record high of six-in-ten Americans (62%) increasingly supports the legalization of both medical and recreational cannabis according to the Pew Research Center. As of August 2019, 11 states, Guam, and the District of Columbia implemented recreational use of cannabis for adults over the age of 21. 33 states approved legislative measures to allow medical cannabis prescribed by doctors to patients for a wide array of medical conditions. Cannabis is an all-natural plant-based medicine with therapeutic properties due to the many components, such as THC. Medical cannabis alleviates chronic pain, nausea, and other medical conditions. It is no secret that medical cannabis continues to rapidly gain popularity for U.S. military veterans as a safer treatment option to relieve a variety of medical conditions. 

Across the nation, US military veterans and active duty service members are recognized due to their heroic efforts as role models in the community. Our freedom would not exist without the self-sacrifice from our veterans. Many veterans are dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other ailments, including chronic pain, after returning home from serving our country. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “approximately 18.5 percent of U.S. service members who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq currently have post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.” In recent years, the opioid epidemic continues to skyrocket due to the dramatic rise in opioid overdose deaths from veterans being prescribed painkillers from both the VA and Medicare doctors. In a research study conducted by the University of Michigan and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System veterans’ rate of overdose deaths from all opioids increased by 65 percent from 2010 to 2016. 

The first step towards improving healthcare for our veterans is to have safe and legal access for medical cannabis as a viable alternative treatment option for PTSD and other ailments, including pain management. Medical cannabis shows promise as a potential treatment option for chronic pain, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. According to a nationwide survey conducted by The American Legion in 2017, veterans and their caregivers overwhelmingly support the legalization of medical cannabis at 82 percent. As a result, our veterans play an important role in supporting changes in legislation at a national level by advocating for medical cannabis legalization. As long as cannabis remains illegal as a controlled substance under federal law, the Department of Veteran Affairs continues to oppose legislative reform for veterans to have full access to medical cannabis in legal states. In addition, veterans are still at risk of losing eligibility for benefits while using medical cannabis . We need to have a significant bipartisan agreement in place among federal leadership about the need of allowing VA doctors to prescribe medical cannabis as an alternative treatment option.

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