October 26, 2017

Ranking Member Walz Calls For VA Research Into Medical Marijuana

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-MN), released the following statement after he and the nine other Democratic members of the committee sent a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Dr. David Shulkin urging the Veterans Health Administration Office of Research and Development (ORD) to begin conducting and examining research into medical marijuana’s effects on veterans suffering from chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is the first time a Ranking Member of the House or Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee has formally called on the VA Secretary to take proactive action on medical marijuana research.

“Time and time again I have heard the stories of veterans who have used marijuana medicinally to help them cope with physical and psychological injuries sustained during their service. After hearing from and meeting with veterans and veterans’ advocates from communities across the country, I now know for a fact that research and access to medical marijuana has become a critically important veterans’ issue,” said Ranking Member Walz, the highest ranking enlisted servicemember ever to serve Congress.

“With its access to world class medical researchers, experience producing cutting-edge medical treatments, and unparalleled history of service to veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs is uniquely situated to pursue research into medical marijuana’s effects on veterans struggling with chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

“At no period of time has research into medical marijuana been as critically important as it is now, as there isn’t a single community in America that hasn’t come face-to-face with our nation’s tragic opioid epidemic. Few populations have been as hurt by the opioid epidemic as our veterans. According to VA’s Office of Inspector General (VAOIG), in 2012, opioid based treatments were provided to 7.7 percent of VA’s patient population, many suffering from chronic pain and PTSD. Thirteen percent of those veterans then formed an addiction to the drug. To continually expose our veterans to dangerous and addictive opioids without exploring every other alternative is simply unconscionable.”

“VA research into medical marijuana for veterans suffering from chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder is past due, that is why I have asked Secretary Shulkin to respond with a commitment to the development of VA-led research into this issue by November 14th, 2017. We owe it to our veterans to get this right and get this done without delay.”

Representatives Mark Takano (D-CA), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Ann McKlane Kuster (D-NH), Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), J. Luis Correa (D-CA), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-MP), Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), and Scott Peters (D-CA) joined Ranking Member Walz in sending the letter to Secretary Shulkin.

Read the letter here.