Cannabis prohibition is killing veterans of our nations' military, according to scientists, activists, and medical professionals across the country.
At least 22 Veterans die by suicide every day.* Nearly half of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have untreated trauma. Rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health ailments are very high.
Even more die daily by overdose on addictive opiates first prescribed to them by the VA. Almost none have access to medical marijuana, which reduces both opiate use and suicide risk, has fewer side effects, and zero risk of overdose deaths.
Cannabis is simply safer - so why can't our bravest access it?
The Veteran Health Administration is infamously difficult to navigate, with the effect of denying care - and relief - to veterans for months or years. What the VA seems to have plenty of is endless “cocktails” of powerful prescription drugs to treat pain, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other conditions. The quality of life challenge and side effects veterans face with these big-pharma experimental treatments are enormous.
Veterans who prefer cannabis treatment to psychotropic drugs may not discuss this treatment with VA doctors. They may stop seeking other kinds of treatments, skip needed bloodwork, or otherwise jeopardize their health to conceal the less-risky treatment they have been forced to undertake illegally.
Where their medical conditions are known to respond to cannabis treatment, with lower risks and higher effectiveness, veterans should have access to cannabis without losing their benefits or risking criminal penalties.
The VA has said it does not want to change cannabis access policies. Veterans overwhelmingly do.
As of election day 2020, 38 states recognize medical uses of cannabis and cannabis products. As one of our country’s population with high medical need, and a bureaucratic monopoly that takes years to deliver care, veterans should be prioritized in access to cannabis care.
Two-thirds of veterans are anti-war. It’s worth remembering the Nixon's crackdown on cannabis - a movement we now know as the War on Drugs - was crafted to disrupt to target anti-war activists engaged in demonstrations against the Vietnam War. It was the war machine, not herbs smoked by hippies, which was claiming thousands of young lives. Nixon himself knew it was prohibition, not cannabis consumption, which could damage activists’ futures and undermine their peaceful movement.
Cannabis prohibition remains a distraction from the real issues facing our veterans and our nation. Reduce the strain on the VA, restore the freedoms our service people fought for, and offer veterans tangible care in times of suffering. Re-legalize cannabis.
* If you or someone you love is having thoughts of suicide, or feel you may be in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you are concerned about the welfare of a veteran you know, contact the Veterans Crisis Line or text 838255 to access resources and counseling.
For more information on these issues, and to hear individual veterans' stories, please check out:
Veterans for Cannabis vfcusa.com
The Veterans Cannabis Project action.vetscp.org
Weed for Warriors wfwproject.org
Veterans Cannabis Group veteranscannabisgroup.com