Medical marijuana (MMJ), with its three active compounds (tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, cannabidiol or CBD, and cannabinol CBN), has been known to alleviate pain, address nausea, and help treat anxiety and other mental health issues.
Even though 33 states plus the District of Columbia have already legalized medical marijuana and many clinical studies have shown its benefits, doctors are prohibited from prescribing it to veterans. It’s unfortunate because many of them return with injuries and psychological trauma that cause persistent pain.
A Backwards Step for the VA
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs doesn’t allow VA doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance (an illegal substance alongside heroin, LSD, and ecstasy). As long as it stays on the list, the VA can’t support clinical studies or allow VA physicians to prescribe it to their patients.
To add to the complicated situation, veterans undergoing therapy in VA institutions may lose their health benefits if their regular tests reveal they’ve been taking prohibited drugs — including marijuana.
Territory Dispensary is a trusted dispensary in Chandler; we know that marijuana could help alleviate physical pain. These aren’t assumptions merely based on our own experiences, too. There exists a body of research providing conclusive evidence that:
– Cannabis can treat chronic pain in adults
– Oral cannabinoids can treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
– Oral cannabinoids can improve spasticity symptoms of multiple sclerosis
Because of the prevalent proof showing its potential to help, many consider the current policies at the VA as a regression. The senior community and non-veterans who suffer from debilitating illnesses or trauma have already found relief from MMJ. Advocates are asking: “Why not the veterans, too?”
A Recent Study May Change the Tide
The politics and stigma surrounding MMJ-assisted treatments for veterans might soon change. In January 2019, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) completed the first clinical trial of smoked marijuana as a treatment for PTSD symptoms in veterans. The scientists involved in the study are currently evaluating the results and will publish their findings later this year. Advocates are optimistic that the results will show how beneficial MMJ can be for veterans.
The completion of the study is a milestone in the 10-year ongoing saga of getting funding and approvals from the FDA and other relevant federal offices. MAPS says the results will finally provide scientists, physicians, patients, and regulating bodies knowledge regarding safe chemical compositions, possible adverse consequences, and other outcomes from MMJ-assisted PTSD treatments.
Proposals to Change Federal Restrictions
Several state representatives have also taken action and filed bills to remove the restrictions on MMJ research and prescriptions to veterans:
– April 2018: Florida representative Matt Gaetz filed House Bill H.R. 5634, the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018, which aims to authorize more manufacturers to produce cannabis for research use.
– September 2018: Senators Bill Nelson (Florida) and Brian Schatz (Hawaii) filed the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act to allow veterans to carry and use cannabis and other derivatives for pain relief and other therapeutic purposes.
All factors considered, we might be looking at a future where veterans can legally use marijuana as an alternative to opioids and other strong medications that do little to ease their pain. Territory Dispensary will be happy to provide high-quality marijuana products to veterans when that day comes.