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Veteran's Affairs and Cannabis Research

Congress Finally Funds Medical Cannabis Research for Veterans

Many of the medical cannabis patients in Illinois and across the country are veterans. They discovered that medical cannabis is the safest and most effective medicine to control the horrible symptoms of PTSD and chronic pain. It is especially effective in relieving anxiety and as a sleep aid. Many had previously been prescribed pharmaceutical drugs which have harmful side effects, are addictive, and provide little or no benefit. It has been an unnecessary struggle for them to find doctors who were willing to certify them. At one point, doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs were prohibited from even discussing medical cannabis as a treatment option. They are currently allowed to discuss it but not allowed to recommend it or certify patients for its use. That is why the newest federal legislation introduced in Congress for medical cannabis research is an incredible step in the right direction.

The Veterans Affair Medicinal Cannabis Research Act, HR 5520, a bipartisan bill, was presented on April 16, 2018. The two major sponsors are Congressman Phil Roe, R-TN, Republican Chairman of the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs and Congressman Tim Waltz, D-MN, the ranking Democrat on the same committee. 33 other House Members of Congress have co-sponsored it. The legislation proposes to investigate the potential medical benefits of cannabis, especially for veterans, as well as for the elderly and those with chronic illnesses. This bill pushes for more medical cannabis research by the VA in human clinical trials. In addition, VA department leaders will be required to make regular reports on an annual basis for the next 5 years on the progress of the VA cannabis research.

Under the proposed bill, VA research would involve full plants and extracts. This would include at least three different strains of cannabis “with significant variants in phenotypic traits and various ratios of THC and CBD in chemical composition.” Different delivery methods would be used in the research, including topicals, tinctures and edibles as well as both vaping and smoking. Additionally, all the data collected or used for medical cannabis research must be preserved.

It does specifically address improving the quality of the cannabis used for research purposes. Prior to this legislation, only one source for cannabis research was available. The plants were sub-par, often moldy and not very potent. There was also a paucity of available cannabis plants for testing. With the passage of this bill, US AG Jeff Sessions would be required, annually, to make sure that there is an adequate and ongoing supply of research-quality cannabis with a minimum of three federally approved cultivators at any given time.

This is a pivotal point for federally-funded institutions, such as universities, who have feared the withholding of their federal funding for doing much needed cannabis research. That would no longer be a concern. It also opens the door to doing federally-funded human clinical trials which have been lacking due to the status of cannabis as federally illegal. The bill does not change the federal status of cannabis nor interferes with any federal, state or local cannabis-related laws, but allows for research.

This bill is in the first stages of the legislative process. It passed out of committee on May 8, 2018. The next step is sending the bill for a vote to the House of Representatives.

Source:, New bill would push VA to conduct more research into medical marijuana. Leo Shane III, April 16, 2018, The VA May Soon Be Forced into Marijuana Research. Finally. James Clark, April 17, 2018

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