Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, The American Legion, Disabled Veterans, The Association of VA Psychologist Leaders, and many other veterans service organizations have voiced solid support for a bill requiring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct clinical trials into the therapeutic potential of marijuana for veterans. President Biden’s administration and the Veteran’s Association (VA) itself continue to oppose the bill.
While discussing numerous pieces of veterans-related legislation at a recent hearing before the House Veterans Affairs Health Subcommittee, a VA representative said Rep. Lou Correa’s VA Cannabis Research Act was among those that the department will not support.
Earlier versions of the bill cleared the full House Veterans Affairs Committee in 2018 and 2020. The bill would mandate that the VA launch a series of clinical trials on medical marijuana to treat PTSD and chronic pain. Correa remains convinced his proposal is pragmatic and bipartisan.
“In my role, I met and worked with veterans struggling with their invisible wounds of war. They explained to me that they didn’t like being prescribed opioids and other medications,” Correa said. “They wanted to access cannabis to ease their pain without the same side effects or addictive properties of opioids.”
Currently, VA doctors are permitted to discuss cannabis with their patients. Agency policy currently protects veterans whose marijuana use is medically documented from losing benefits; the bill would establish those policies as a federal statute that couldn’t be administratively modified in the future.
The VA’s David Carroll said he isn’t ideologically opposed to the measure but finds it excessively prescriptive and “redundant.” Additionally, he has concerns with the authoritarian nature of Correa’s legislation on full-scale clinical trials. He also argued that any clinical trials involving human subjects must draw from the “smallest number of participants needed to avoid unnecessarily putting subjects at risk.”
Carroll believes that some effects of marijuana “are not known, thus a circumscribed approach to determine dose, administration modality, and best outcome measure must be shown in a proof-of-concept approach to ensure the validity of the research.”
Correa pointed out that some of the current VA studies exclude THC. Groups that represent military veterans backed the legislation in their testimony.
Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States said the VA’s bureaucratic hurdles prevent its members from receiving cannabis-related treatment. “While VA has testified that it has the authority to study Schedule 1 drugs, it has failed to do so, and veterans are tired of waiting.”
Disabled American Veterans support the bill, saying “more comprehensive and scientifically rigorous research by the VA into the therapeutic benefits and risks of cannabis and cannabis-derived products” is needed.
Paralyzed Veterans of America pointed to the “growing body of evidence that cannabinoids are effective for treating conditions like chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, sleep disturbances related to obstructive sleep apnea, multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms, and fibromyalgia.”
Congressional leaders Sen. Warren and Sen. Booker are working to end federal marijuana prohibition altogether.