Op-Ed: Vets-in-Need Denied Cannabis By V.A.

By Major (Ret.) Abel Hernandez.

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (V.A.) continues its battle to stop veterans using cannabis. On April 29th of this year, the Department of Veterans Affairs opposed three legislative proposals to expand the research of medical marijuana. The proposals would give veterans access to cannabis in states where cannabis is legal. My question, as a veteran of the US Army who deployed five times, is “why?”

Why is the V.A. so against cannabis? This natural plant provides pain relief, reduces anxiety, calms nerves, and treats PTSD effectively, without damaging the liver and kidneys in the way opioids do — opioids which are handed out like candy.

Photo by Jessica Radanavong.

The V.A. maintains that it stands by its decision based on the reality that marijuana continues to be illegal under federal law, therefore it cannot support any legislation that promotes the use of cannabis. One of the bills being proposed comes from Representative Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon. Rep. Blumenauer has introduced the same bill at every Congressional session since 2014. He is campaigning to allow V.A. health providers the option to recommend medical marijuana to their patients and to help those patients to enroll in state marijuana programs.

Opioids are an epidemic in this country, and the crisis is especially grim among veterans. As veterans, we are often in constant chronic physical pain, and we deal with PTSD daily, along with a list of other issues, creating a scenario where opioids sometimes seem like the only answer. However, veterans among others, become addicted to those opioids and that addiction is hard to shake. With cannabis use, that tendency to develop an addiction is rare, and cannabis doesn’t have an adverse effect on our livers and other vital organs. We can’t overdose and die on cannabis, but perhaps, more importantly, cannabis doesn’t make the Washington insiders tons of money, and that’s where the real problem resides.

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