U.S. Veterans and Marijuana

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In talks about the legalization of medical marijuana in the U.S., the subject of how it could help veterans has been a hot button issue in both state governments and in Washington. In November of 2015, the Senate passed the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Bill, which according to the Drug Policy Alliance, would allow Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients in states where marijuana was legal. Previously, laws prohibited physicians from discussing or recommending marijuana to their patients.

The Endocannibinoid System

The science behind marijuana as medication works as follows: The human body has an entire endocannabinoid system (in the same way that it has a respiratory or nervous system, etc.) of receptors configured to receive only cannabinoids, a class of chemical structures which regulate mood, pain sensation and appetite, among other things. There are nearly one hundred cannabinoids found in cannabis; the two most widely known are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). In a nutshell, our bodies were created with a complex system to accept cannabinoids found in marijuana. According to data published in 2011, “The (endocannabinoid) EC system—named after the marijuana plant Cannabis sativa and its active ingredient delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—is a unique communications system in the brain and body that affects many important functions, including how a person feels, moves, and reacts.”

Marijuana and Veterans Affairs

How does this help Veterans? For starters, people who have served in the military are “50% more likely to commit suicide (L.A. Times)” than those who have not served. The American Public Journal of Health has issued a statement that data supports a 10% decrease in suicide in young males where marijuana is legal. From PBS.com, “The study, co-written by professors from Montana State, San Diego State, and the University of Colorado at Denver, analyzed 17 years worth of statistics in search of shifts in suicide rates per 10,000 people in states where medical marijuana was legal from 1990 to 2007. Using the statistics of states in which marijuana is still illegal as the control group, the study’s authors concluded that in states with legal medical marijuana, the suicide rate for males aged 20-29 decreased 10.9 percent, and for men aged 30-39 they saw a decrease of 9.4 percent.”

Decreasing suicide rates is one of several key issues lining the long road to legalization. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, affects up to 20% of all active and veteran service members. In a recent Newsweek article, Arizona psychiatrist Sue Sisley came forward to discuss the increasing number of her patients who were admitting to using marijuana to successfully manage their PTSD symptoms. While at first, she thought this was disappointing news and opposed the self medicating actions of her patients, she claims that eventually after hearing enough of the same affirming testimonials, she realized she needed to truly listen to her patients. It was, as she put it, “a mountain of anecdotal evidence (for PTSD treatment with medicinal marijuana),” and has added that her research concludes that marijuana provides relief from symptoms more immediately than traditional depression and PTSD medication like Prozac or Zoloft, which can take precious time, some several months, to fully begin working with our bodies.

Interested in how you can help Veterans gain access to medication that can truly help? Sign the petition today. #legalizeitlouisiana