The VA is receiving mounting pressure from Democrats on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee to research the effects of medical marijuana on post-traumatic stress.
In a stunning letter signed by every Democrat on the committee, the lawmakers pleaded with VA Secretary David Shulkin, a medical doctor, to direct the agency’s Office of Research and Development to look into the medical benefits of cannabis as an alternate to opioids.
“VA is uniquely situated to pursue research on the impact of medical marijuana on veterans suffering from chronic pain and PTSD given its access to world class researchers, the population it serves, and its history of overseeing and producing research resulting in cutting-edge medical treatments,” the letter reads.
”While data is limited, it has been reported that an estimated 9% of the veteran population currently use marijuana and 41% of those veteran users reported having used marijuana medically.”
In a statement, the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), the highest ranking enlisted service member ever to serve in Congress, said “Time and time again I have heard the stories of veterans who have used marijuana medicinally to help them cope with physical and psychological injuries sustained during their service.”
“I now know for a fact that research and access to medical marijuana has become a critically important veterans’ issue.”
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, as a schedule 1 narcotic—the same classification given to heroin and LSD. But 26 states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, allow the prohibited plant for medical purposes.
In May, Shulkin signaled the department may be interested in looking into cannabis “as an option for veterans.”
“My opinion is that some of the states that have put in appropriate controls, there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful,” he said. “And we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that.”
The American Legion has been relentless in calling for expanded research into the use of cannabis as medicine, often times tweeting to Shulkin directly.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America released a new survey Thursday specifying 63 percent of their members support the use of marijuana for medical purposes, while only 15 percent opposed.
The letter calls for Shulkin to explain why the department will not allow further study, or a commitment to research no later than Nov. 14.