In a 2017 American Legion poll of veteran households,  92 percent of respondents supported medical marijuana research, 82 percent would like medical cannabis to be legalized and 1 in 5 veterans currently use it to treat a medical or physical condition. But even today, most VA patients are worried they could lose their benefits if they discuss medical marijuana use with their doctors as the VA cites federal law (DEA) which defines cannabis as a Schedule I drug. For years, VA physicians have refused to discuss cannabis benefits with their patients.

That silence could be forcibly broken with legislation introduced in the House of Representatives called the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018. An article in Task & Purpose explains why this would be a game changer for servicemen and women. If passed, this legislation would allow the VA’s existing Office of Research and Development to conduct research on the benefits of medical marijuana in treating veterans. It would also give VA patients and physicians freedom to discuss medical cannabis.

Bill HR5520 has the support of both the Republican and Democrat leaders on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. It includes language that demands reports from the VA on an annual basis to show the group’s progress in conducting clinical research. The potential positives for vets using cannabinoids are making headlines for good reason.

The number of vets suffering from chronic pain and PTSD exceeds the national civilian average as does the suicide rate for those addicted to opioids. In 2016, drug overdose death rates increased by 21.5-percent and 66-percent of those deaths involved a prescription or illicit opioid. And when it comes to truly dangerous Schedule I drugs it’s important to note that four out of five new heroin users first started by purposely misusing prescription painkillers.

The Missouri Patient Care Act allows patients to discuss medical cannabis with their physician and provides safe access through a well regulated industry, encouraging research. In Pennsylvania, a significant research study has been announced with a goal of detailing the benefits of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids for pain management. Should medical cannabis prove to be a useful coping mechanism, American vets and civilians alike could transition away from highly-addictive opioids which could significantly reduce overdose death rates.