Did you know that despite the fact that medical cannabis is legal in 36 states, Veterans Health Administration (VA) doctors are not permitted to prescribe cannabis for their patients? Additionally, veterans who discuss their use of medical cannabis in those states could be subject to federal prosecution. This is not acceptable for those that served our country. We applaud Senator Brian Schatz’s (D-Hawaii) efforts to improve access to this treatment for veterans living with debilitating chronic pain.

The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, introduced by Senator Schatz on April 16, would create a “federal safe harbor protection” for veterans and their doctors in using or recommending medical marijuana, where it is legal in that state or tribal land, to provide relief from pain.

Many veterans have survived serious battlefield wounds; some endure pain for months, years, and even for the rest of their lives. In fact, nearly 60 percent who served in the Middle East, and more than 50 percent of older veterans, live with some form of chronic pain.

Some studies have indicated that access to medical marijuana can reduce reliance on prescription opioids for pain. A 2018 RAND Corporation study found that broader access to medical marijuana facilitates the substitution of marijuana for opioids. Further, a 2020 Canadian study found that cannabis significantly reduced the use of prescription opioids and improved quality of life.

However, more studies are needed to fully understand the medicinal and pain-relieving effects of marijuana and its relationship to the use of other drugs. The Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act directs the VA to conduct a study of the relationship between medical marijuana and reduction in opioid use and abuse among veterans.

U.S. Pain Foundation is proud to endorse Senator Schatz’s bill and joins the following organizations in endorsing the bill: the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), VoteVets, Minority Veterans of America, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Veterans Cannabis Project, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), NORML, National Cannabis Roundtable, Drug Policy Alliance, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Veteran’s Initiative 22, Arizona Dispensary Association, California Cannabis Industry Association, and Hawai‘i Cannabis Industry Association.

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