BY RUTH HILL R.N.
Veterans Cannabis Project (VCP) is dedicated to improving U.S. military veterans’ quality of life through open access to cannabis. VCP believes medical cannabis saves lives and that veterans deserve full, legal access. That is why they are working to change the conversation about the life-saving superior health treatment of cannabis.
Founded by Nick Etten a former U.S. Navy SEAL VCP advocates on behalf of the millions of veterans who should have the right to manage pain and health issues independently with safe medications without the horrendous side effects of pharmaceuticals and to ensure veterans’ voices are heard and amplified through the halls of Congress, the VA, and the current administration.
Veterans face too many roadblocks in getting the care they need and deserve. VA doctors should be able to discuss the full range of legal treatment options with their patients, in states where cannabis is legal.
It is through the efforts of VCP and the Schedule 6 Foundation that Senators approved the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilConVA) measure with the cannabis amendment from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) as part of a “minibus” package of three spending bills at the end of October. The vote was 82-15.
This comes about three months after the House passed its MilConVA bill with an amendment sponsored by Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) and other members of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. These House and Senate provisions will allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to issue medical marijuana recommendations to veterans living in legal states—setting the stage for a conference.
Funding for federal agencies is currently set to expire on November 17 as part of a short-term extension that lawmakers approved in September. The veteran’s cannabis amendment would achieve the same policy outcome as a standalone bill that was refiled on the House side by Mast and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).
The Veterans Equal Access Act has been introduced several times in recent years with bipartisan support—and moved through committee and floor approval a number of times—but has yet to be enacted. In August, bipartisan congressional lawmakers expressed “deep concern” over the recently updated VA marijuana directive that continues to prohibit its doctors from making medical cannabis recommendations to veterans living in states where it’s legal.
The mental illnesses veterans experience coming back from their combat deployment are often medically refractory, meaning current pharmaceuticals are ineffective. There are several national organizations coordinating efforts to consolidate laws consistently across the VA system. Medical Moment tracks over 1500 laws in the state’s various legislations.
The US Cannabis Council (USCC) was launched in 2021 to build a future of legal access to cannabis delivered through an equitable and values-driven industry by advancing federal cannabis legalization and promoting restorative justice for communities harmed by cannabis prohibition. VCP joined forces with the USCC.
In 2021, research found that 30,177 active-duty personnel and veterans who served in the military after 9/11 have died by suicide – compared to the 7,057 service members killed in combat in those same 20 years. That is, military suicide rates are four times higher than deaths that occurred during military operations. Suicides are the result of untreated mental illness refractory to current pharmaceuticals.
In the spirit of November 11, 2023, join these organizations to give a voice in support of effective medical intervention for the many medical issues our military experiences. The plethora of research shows superior efficacy for marijuana over current pharmaceuticals. To deny an effective drug for a medical condition is medical abuse. What are you doing to support the veterans in your neighborhood who are in a medical wilderness, swallowing prescriptions that do not work?
Outdated laws should never censor veterans’ doctor-patient relationships. To help veterans have access to this medical treatment call your House and Senate Congressmen and encourage them to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make this important option a reality for America’s veterans.