For over two decades, veterans in the United States have been at the forefront of a critical battle that does not take place on foreign soil but within the very boundaries of their homeland. This fight is not against a visible enemy but against the lingering shadows of stigma, legislation, and societal misconceptions.
It is the battle for the right to use Cannabis - a journey marked by perseverance, advocacy, and resilience.
Early Struggles and Societal Stigma
The journey began in the early 2000s, a time when the stigma surrounding cannabis use was profound, and the legal landscape was largely unforgiving. Veterans returning from combat with physical injuries and mental health challenges like PTSD found themselves in a healthcare system that offered limited solutions.
Traditional treatments and medications often fell short, leaving many to grapple with side effects and inadequate relief.
The Emergence of Cannabis as a Beacon of Hope
In their search for alternatives, Cannabis emerged as a beacon of hope. Anecdotal evidence and early research suggested that Cannabis could offer significant relief for symptoms related to chronic pain, PTSD, and other service-related health issues.
However, the legal status of Cannabis, classified as a Schedule I drug with no accepted medical use, became a formidable barrier to access and research.
Advocacy and the Push for Legalization
Undeterred, veterans and advocacy groups began mobilizing, pushing for changes in legislation and public perception. Organizations like Veterans Cannabis Project and Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access emerged, providing a voice for those who had long been silenced.
Their efforts focused on educating the public, lobbying lawmakers, and highlighting the medicinal benefits of Cannabis.
Milestones and Legislative Victories
This relentless advocacy has led to significant milestones. States began legalizing medical Cannabis, with some recognizing PTSD as a qualifying condition. These legislative victories, although varied by state, offered many veterans legal access to Cannabis for the first time.
The conversation around Cannabis shifted, slowly transforming from a taboo to a topic of severe medical consideration.
The Continued Fight and Recent Developments
The fight, however, is far from over. Federal prohibition remains a significant hurdle, limiting comprehensive research and creating disparities in access and legal protections for veterans.
Despite this, the recent Senate bill allowing VA doctors to recommend medical Cannabis in legal states marks a significant step forward in this two-decade journey.
And finally, Veterans get to spark up Cannabis legally In November 2023, the Senate approved a bill that, if signed into law, would allow doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recommend Cannabis as a treatment, but only in states where Cannabis is legal (1).
The Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilConVA) measure passed with a vote of 82 -15, with the amendment concerning veteran access to medical Cannabis added earlier this year (1).
The MilConVa provides "support for critical housing, infrastructure, and facilities for U.S. military forces and their families, as well as increased funding for veterans health care and benefits" (2).
The cannabis amendment in the Senate bill states (1): Sec. 260. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available to the Department of Veterans Affairs in this Act may be used in a manner that would— interfere with the ability of a veteran to participate in a medicinal marijuana program approved by a State; deny any services from the Department to a veteran who is participating in such a program; or limit or interfere with the ability of a health care provider of the Department to make appropriate recommendations, fill out forms, or take steps to comply with such a program.
Several months ago, the House passed its MilConVa bill with a medical cannabis amendment, though with different wording (1). Before the bill's final version can be enacted into law by the president, the discrepancies must be resolved (1). "It's a mistake to assume veterans aren't turning to cannabis for pain relief and putting their benefits at risk in return," stated Andrew Freedman, Executive Director of the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation, in a recent opinion piece (3).
"Today, 83% of U.S. veterans support medical cannabis programs – with 68% of U.S. voters supporting federal cannabis reform. It's a shame our nation's bravest must seek treatment discreetly, concealing it from their doctors for fear of losing benefits. Yet, they lack the research-backed products they deserve. We must advocate on their behalf, as many feel they cannot admit use or seek help openly."
The passing of this bill could usher in a new era of research and development in cannabis-based treatments, including innovative products like Hash of Hemp and CBGa Crumble. These derivatives, renowned for their potential therapeutic properties, could be pivotal in addressing veterans' unique health challenges.
As a researcher and advocate for cannabinoid therapies, I recognize the immense potential of these compounds in providing relief and support to our veterans, who have long been deprived of these beneficial alternatives.
Medical Cannabis: A Veteran's Ally in Health and Wellness
The overwhelming support for medical cannabis among veterans and the general public reflects a growing acknowledgment of its benefits. Medicinal cannabis, backed by research and science, could offer a lifeline to veterans grappling with chronic pain, PTSD, and other health issues. The Senate's decision aligns with the voice of the veteran community, advocating for access to research-backed, quality cannabis products.
A Call to Action: Empowering Veterans Through Federal Cannabis Reform
As we celebrate this legislative milestone, we must continue advocating for comprehensive federal cannabis reform. The current state-by-state approach creates disparities in access and care for veterans. A unified federal policy would ensure that all veterans, regardless of their state of residence, have equal access to the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis.
A Future of Healing and Hope
The Senate's decision to pass the MilConVA bill with the medical cannabis amendment is more than a legislative victory; it's a beacon of hope for veterans nationwide. It signifies a shift towards a future where medicinal cannabis is recognized not as a taboo, but as a viable and valuable tool in the arsenal of veteran healthcare.
As we continue to explore the potential of Hash of Hemp, CBGa Crumble, and other cannabis derivatives, we inch closer to a future where our veterans receive the comprehensive, compassionate care they deserve.
- Jaeger, K. Senate votes to allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans, similar to house-passed version https://www.marijuanamoment.net/senate-votes-to-allow-va-doctors-to-recommend-medical-marijuana-to-veterans-similar-to-house-passed-version/ (accessed Nov 10, 2023).
- Senate committee approves FY24 Milcon-Va appropriations bill: United States Senate Committee on appropriations https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/minority/senate-committee-approves-fy24-milcon-va-appropriations-bill (accessed Nov 10, 2023).
- Freedman, A. Empowering veterans: The case for federal cannabis reform https://www.newsweek.com/empowering-veterans-case-federal-cannabis-reform-1841327 (accessed Nov 10, 2023).