When you think of what medical marijuana can do, plenty of different things come to mind. From pain management, anxiety, PTSD, insomnia… the list goes on and on. These different conditions and ailments are wide in range. However, one thing remains the same about them: when it comes to veterans, many of them suffer in some way after serving their time. It could be physical pain, or emotional— but pain nonetheless. Up until this point, the VA and legislation has done little to interject on what medical marijuana (or MMJ) might be able to do for veterans. After all, it is federally illegal. But, on Wednesday, two Democratic senators filed legislation in an attempt to legalize MMJ for military veterans, and provide access to it. This would be a huge step for MMJ, and treatment for military veterans who could benefit from access… 

Military Veterans and Medical Marijuana: An Act that Could Change Treatment of Chronic Pain

This bit of legislation would be considered The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act. It would allow for Veterans Affairs (VA) physicians to issue MMJ recommendations in legal states. Furthermore, it requires that the VA begin to study the effects of MMJ for veterans in pain within two years of the act passing. This research could also help to determine the ability of MMJ to reduce opioid abuse amongst veterans. The act sets aside $15 million for doing such research. If passed, not only would this be a huge step for veterans, but also for MMJ research.

Opioid Abuse in Veterans 

If you’re not aware, opioid abuse amongst military veterans has been an increasingly damaging issue over the past few years. Veterans are twice as likely to die from accidental overdose. To put it simply, they aren’t overdosing on purpose. But, rather, the pain their facing is so intense that they’ll take more medicine. Then, as a result, they will overdose without the intention of doing so.

It’s not that Veteran’s Affairs systems aren’t trying. In the past few months, VA systems have treated nearly 68,000 veterans for opioid addition— attempting to heal this giant issue. They’re working on other types of treatment. The VA has begun to try yoga amongst other natural practices to reduce drug use. But, at the end of the day, when you need to treat high-levels of pain, many veterans will rely on what they know works. 

Statistics on pain

The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act sites ‘almost 60 percent of veterans returning from serving…. and more than 50 percent of older veterans, who are using the health care system… with some form of chronic pain.” Furthermore, “states with medical cannabis laws have a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid nerds mortality rate…”. 

This act takes time to consider not only how this bill could benefit veterans, but how MMJ has helped the opioid crisis within our country

The act guarantees that in no later than two years after the Act, the VA will take time to conduct a study on MMJ and veterans dealing with chronic pain. There is the potential to change the lives of every veteran facing pain on a daily basis. But, the act still has to pass. While we remain hopeful, the VA continues it’s effort to use types of pain management outside of pharma.