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Get With The Times: Veterans Desire Cannabis Research

There’s an awful lot of chatter about cannabis these days. Yesterday, on October 17th, Canada became the second country in the world to nationally legalize the use of cannabis, even allowing their service members to partake of the substance, with some strict regulations, of course.

American veterans are hyper-aware of the changing laws and culture regarding cannabis use and they are calling for the VA to recognize these changes as well. As states adjust their laws, with many allowing for some form of medical cannabis and some allowing recreational cannabis, there are now dispensaries on thousands of streets across the country. It’s time for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to get with the times and research the possible benefits of medicinal cannabis. Thankfully, there are Members of Congress who agree with this and they have put forward a bill to make it happen. It’s called the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 (H.R. 5520/S. 2796)!

Earlier this year, the bill was unanimously passed by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, which is no small feat. The bill is simple: allow the VA to research possible benefits and possible harms of cannabis use. It authorizes use of the incredible research power the VA holds by being connected to some of the most impressive research institutions in the world. It is time to move beyond anecdotal evidence and produce some solid science that can help shape and guide future policy regarding cannabis. IAVA is one of the Veteran Service Organizations throwing it’s full support behind this bill. Our mission is to connect, unite and empower veterans, while making sure veteran voices are heard. Over 60 percent of IAVA members surveyed last year support medical cannabis legalization.

There is overwhelming support among veterans for the VA to research the use of medical cannabis, a potentially life-saving resource which could help curb the number of veterans that are dependent on pills and pain meds to get through the day. With fresh information released highlighting alarming statistics on veteran and service member suicide, we need to approach veteran health and well-being in a more holistic way. Basically, it’s time for the VA to listen to the veterans they serve. We need to do better to combat the fights that veterans face every day.

IAVA is fighting for the VA to recognize the growing number of veterans who choose to use medical cannabis as an alternative to traditional practices. As state laws evolve to meet the needs of their citizens, it is time that the VA put in the work to guide smart and informed policy that could affect hundreds of thousands of Americans, not just veterans. We should look to our neighbors in the North and discard the stigma and propaganda that is surrounding this issue. Bottom line: we can’t continue to have veterans left behind because of antiquated ideas about cannabis. The future is green and the VA can either get on board or be left behind.

Learn more about IAVA’s #CannabisForVets campaign here. And ask your Member of Congress to sign on to the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 here.

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