The United States House of Representatives has passed a bill authorizing research on cannabis and its potential use as a treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Department of Veterans Affairs is tasked with conducting the study, which will examine whether or not PTSD patients experience any side effects from having access to marijuana during their therapy sessions. This would be the first time that cannabis is legally approved in federal law for an illness unrelated to recreational use.
A major congressional committee has passed legislation directing the Department of Veterans Affairs to pursue research into the use of cannabis as a therapeutic therapy for PTSD and chronic pain.
Last week, a major congressional committee passed a measure that would allow the federal government to conduct research into the medicinal uses of cannabis for war veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would be compelled to perform clinical studies exploring the potential of cannabis as a therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain among the nation’s veterans under the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act.
The measure was adopted by the House Veterans Affairs Committee on November 4 by a vote of 18 to 11, with all of the panel’s Democratic members and one Republican voting in favor. Previous versions of the measure were approved by the committee last year and in 2018, but it has yet to be enacted by the entire Congress and signed into law.
Rep. Lou Correa, a California Democrat and bill sponsor, told Marijuana Moment, “Our veterans are no strangers to facing obstacles, and that’s why Congress has to examine other therapeutic alternatives.” “The Veterans Affairs Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2021 meets veterans where they are and provides a new door for government policy that supports therapeutic alternatives that veterans desire.”
“How can we not use Congress’s and the federal government’s huge resources to investigate alternative therapy alternatives like cannabis when veterans themselves tell us that’s what they need?” Correa continued. “Failure to support this measure would be a further dereliction of our responsibility to care for those who have given so much to help safeguard our country.”
The Veterans Administration has recognized that PTSD and war trauma may lead to a greater likelihood of suicide thoughts. Anecdotal evidence suggests that cannabis may assist with PTSD symptoms, but clinical data is still lacking. Furthermore, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has told Congress that there is “strong evidence” that cannabis has therapeutic value as a therapy for chronic pain and has recommended legislators to finance research into the dangers and benefits of medical marijuana.
At last week’s session, VA officials spoke out against the bill, noting difficulty doing research under its parameters. Rep. Mark Takano, a Democrat from California who chairs the committee, said the agency has so far failed to take effective action without congressional guidance.
Before the vote, Takano said, “We simply must educate VA and its healthcare practitioners with scientific guidelines concerning the possible affects, advantages, and/or hazards of cannabis used to treat chronic pain and PTSD.” “The VA informs us that it is keeping an eye on smaller cannabis research efforts outside the VA. “This isn’t nearly enough.”
Many veterans seek relief from cannabis.
Many veterans afflicted by the ongoing hardships of military service self-medicate with cannabis to assist alleviate illnesses such as chronic pain, sleeplessness, and PTSD, despite the lack of scientific evidence. However, the VA has so far refused to examine the medicinal potential of cannabis, despite appeals from veterans and their allies. Even worse, many veterans who have resorted to medicinal cannabis have had their VA doctors refuse to fill their prescriptions.
Staci Gruber, head of the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery program at McLean Hospital and an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, told Politico that “the same groups that have the most need are frequently the most understudied.”
According to Andy Meiars, a founder of the Battle Brothers Foundation (BBF), the nonprofit organization is assisting in the funding of cannabis research through a partnership with the California licensed, veteran-owned brand Helmand Valley Growers Company, which donates 100 percent of profits to studies looking into the therapeutic potential of cannabis for veterans. BBF is financing a study with NiaMedic, a medical research and data firm, to see whether cannabis therapy might help patients with treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder. The University of California Irvine has agreed to be a participating research site.
Helmand Valley Growers Company and BBF are working together to get cannabis recognized by the VA healthcare system as a valid treatment. The corporation has contributed $60,000 to the cause so far, with intentions to increase that amount by the end of the year. Meiars said the research team will be recruiting veterans for the study shortly, and that Veterans Day is a good time to emphasize why veterans need access to cannabis.
“You’ve asked us veterans to put our lives on the line in the name of our nation. Many of our classmates returned with shattered bodies and missing bits of their brains. In an email, he stated, “Cannabis is a remarkable plant, a true alternative to opioids that may make a difference in treating veterans.” “We’re attempting to provide them with access to not just cannabis, but also to the improved quality of life for which they fought.” Everyone, particularly veterans, deserves sleep and a pain-free day.”
Despite the House Veterans Affairs Committee’s approval last week, the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act still has to be enacted by the whole House and Senate, as well as President Joe Biden’s assent, since his administration has stated opposition to the bill.