Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Veterans And Research Groups Endorse Bipartisan VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act

Apr 26, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-MN), alongside Representatives Lou Correa (D-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), welcomed national veterans service organizations and research advocacy groups to a roundtable in support of H.R. 5520, the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018. Over 20 organizations have endorsed the bill.

The legislation will authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to advance scientific and medical research into the safety and efficacy of medicinal cannabis usage by veterans with diagnoses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain. The legislation has been cosponsored by 39 Democrats and 11 Republicans.

What the community is saying about H.R. 5520, the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018

“AMVETS supports the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act and researching the effectiveness and safety of medical cannabis. In 2016, our members passed a resolution to ensure that veterans can discuss medical cannabis within the VA healthcare system without fear of punishment; that encourages VA to allow veterans’ access to medical cannabis through their VA doctors; and that clearly supports a veterans’ right to use medical cannabis therapeutically, in states where it is legal. The passage of H.R. 5520 will assist VA in understanding the strong benefits that THC and CBD can offer veteran patients with pain, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and addiction, among other health burdens. –– Joseph Chenelly, Executive Director, AMVETS

“Rigorous research must be conducted to determine the safety and efficacy of any treatment, including the use of medical marijuana for veterans with PTSD, chronic pain, and other conditions. If enacted, the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act would clarify the department’s authority to conduct the necessary research to determine if and when medical marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for our nation’s heroes. We appreciate the Committee’s efforts in facilitating this important discussion and commend the bill’s sponsors and co-sponsors for putting forth this legislation.” –– Garry J. Augustine, Executive Director, Disabled American Veterans (DAV)

"We thank Ranking Member Walz for hosting this imperative discussion with members of the veterans community and research community on the topic of medical cannabis. With over 40 percent of IAVA members reporting mental health injuries such as PTSD and depression, and 38 percent reporting chronic pain, any treatment option that may mitigate these wounds of war should be fully explored. It is with our membership in mind that IAVA endorses the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018.” –– Stephanie Mullen, Research Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)

“The American Legion fully supports research for potential medicinal use of cannabis and responsible action in the interest of advancing medicine, particularly for veterans who report relief from service-connected conditions, thanks to this important drug.” –– Louis Celli, National Director of Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, The American Legion

“The VFW is proud to support H.R. 5520, the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act, which represents a bipartisan step forward in the national conversation surrounding medical cannabis. This legislation will open the door to understanding the effects and interactions of medical marijuana, and pave the way to improve the quality of veterans’ lives. The VFW applauds Ranking Member Walz, Chairman Roe and Congressman Correa for listening to the voices of veterans, and for clearing the way for this crucially needed research to assure VA providers continue leading from the front in medical knowledge and care provided.” –– Robert E. Wallace, Executive Director, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Washington Office

“The American Psychological Association strongly endorses the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018, which will direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct research on both the potential therapeutic efficacy and risk for adverse effects of marijuana and its constituent compounds in the treatment of pain, PTSD and other health conditions common in the veteran population. One of the strengths of VA’s robust intramural research program is it allows VA to quickly translate findings from high quality research into improved assessment of and clinical care for veterans, and APA supports authorizing and then appropriating funds for the VA to develop and apply this crucial evidence base to improve the lives of veterans.” –– Howard S. Kurtzman, Ph.D., Acting Executive Director for Science, American Psychological Association

"Medicinal cannabis access should be a priority of Congress, and we thank Chairman Roe, Ranking Member Walz, and Congressman Correa for their bipartisan effort to address a life-and-death issue for many veterans who are suffering from a lack of effective medical treatments for their complex service-connected injuries." –– Eric Goepel, Founder & CEO, Veterans Cannabis Coalition

"The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act is greatly needed. MAPS is currently conducting the only FDA-approved study of cannabis in veterans with PTSD. The study is taking place in Phoenix, AZ, but the Phoenix VA has refused to refer vets with chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD to the study. The Phoenix VA claims that unspecified federal laws supposedly prevent it from cooperating with the study even though there are no such laws.  Our study in 76 veterans has enrolled 52 veterans so far without the assistance of the Phoenix VA but with major costs for subject recruitment. We may not be able to enroll all 76 veterans unless the VA Cannabis Research Act passes and the Phoenix VA starts cooperating with the study." –– Rick Doblin, Ph.D., Executive Director, Multidisciplinary Association For Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)

“Wounded Warrior Project supports research and investments to expand the number of evidence-based therapies available to veterans. The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 would allow VA to develop a research plan for the use and safety of medicinal cannabis, and holds potential to bring more choices of tested and validated therapies to help veterans in their rehabilitation and recovery. We support this legislation and look forward to advancements in treating the visible and invisible wounds of war.” –– René Bardorf, Senior Vice President of Government and Community Relations, Wounded Warrior Project

Over 20 organizations have endorsed H.R. 5520

Veterans:

  • AMVETS
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
  • The American Legion
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
  • Veterans Cannabis Coalition (VCC)
  • Veterans Cannabis Project (VCP)
  • Wounded Warrior Project

Medical and Scientific:

  • American Brain Coalition
  • American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • Aspen Brain Institute
  • Bridge the Gap - SYNGAP Education and Research Foundation
  • College on Problems of Drug Dependence
  • Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • Friends of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
  • Friends of the National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • International Essential Tremor Foundation
  • MdDS Balance Disorder Foundation
  • Veterans Health Council of Vietnam Veterans of America

Cannabis Specific:

  • Americans for Safe Access
  • Acreage Holdings
  • MedMen
  • Multidisciplinary Association For Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)

Background:

The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 would promote scientific and medical research into the safety and efficacy of medicinal cannabis usage on veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and other illnesses and injuries by (1) clarifying that research into medicinal cannabis is well within the authority of VA and (2) by requiring VA to report to Congress on how it intends to exercise that authority. The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 is a pragmatic and bipartisan piece of legislation that will improve and in many cases save the lives of veterans across the country.

While data is limited, the American Legion, a congressionally-chartered Veteran Service Organization, conducted a survey in October 2017 on a portion of its approximately 2.2 million veteran members and found that 92% of all respondents support medical research and 82% of all respondents support legalizing medicinal cannabis. The survey also found that “22 percent of veterans are currently using cannabis to treat a medical condition.” Therefore, it is clear that medical research into the safety and efficacy of cannabis usage for medical purposes is timely, necessary, and widely supported by the veteran community.

As many veterans are currently using cannabis for medicinal purposes, it is important that clinicians are able to fully advise veterans on the impacts, harms, and benefits of cannabis use on veterans with various diagnoses including PTSD and chronic pain.

In 1925, Congress established the Veterans Health Administration Office of Research and Development (ORD) in order to facilitate the Department of Veterans Affairs’ fulfillment of its research and development program’s mission “to discover knowledge and create innovations that advance health care for Veterans and the Nation.” Since its inception, ORD has earned a reputation as a leader in research and development, and the ability of ORD to produce cutting-edge, scientifically-sound, clinically necessary and life-saving research is undeniable. For this reason, ORD should be responsible for determining the efficacy and safety of cannabis-usage on our nation’s veterans.

The introduction of the legislation follows months of letters sent back and forth between Democrats on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, led by Ranking Member Walz, and VA. In the letters to VA, House Democrats called on the department to conduct research into medicinal cannabis for veterans suffering from diagnoses including PTSD and chronic pain, or otherwise identify any specific barriers to such research. VA responded by saying they were unable to carry out such research, citing bureaucratic red tape, onerous interagency coordination, and a lack of Congressional authority. The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 will make it abundantly clear that VA has the authority to advance scientific and medical research into the safety and efficacy of medicinal cannabis usage on veterans suffering from diagnoses such as PTSD and chronic pain and will require VA to report to Congress on its progress carrying out such research once a year for five years.

The Message:

  • Since 1925, the VA’s Office of Research and Development has advanced veterans’ and the nation’s healthcare through industry-leading research and development.
  • This bill would ensure VA knows it has the authority and Congress has the oversight necessary to advance research into cannabis usage for medicinal purposes.
  • This legislation represents a bipartisan step forward in the national conversation on medicinal cannabis.

Read the April 17 press release announcing the legislation here.

Read Ranking Member Walz’s October 26 letter here.

Read Secretary Shulkin’s December 21 letter here.

Read Ranking Member Walz’s January 16 letter here.

###