VCC Endorses S.3409, the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act
VETERANS CANNABIS COALITION
1405 S Fern St. #274, Arlington, VA 22202
August 14, 2018
The Honorable Brian Schatz
722 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20150
The Honorable Bill Nelson
716 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20150
Dear Senator Schatz and Senator Nelson,
The Veterans Cannabis Coalition would like to thank you and your offices, and express our support, for the introduction of the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act. We believe this bill recognizes and works to end the absurd and destructive catch-22 that veterans who medicate with cannabis find themselves in—where the federal government criminalizes them for possession, hinders them in talking to their primary care VA doctors about cannabis, and blocks nearly all research into cannabis’ medical efficacy. This state of affairs is preventing millions of veterans from accessing a substance that anecdotal, observational, and clinical evidence all indicate possesses incredible medical value in treating some of the most common injuries and conditions veterans must manage.
Millions of veterans have fulfilled their duty to this country and came home from service expecting that the injuries they sustained would cared for, that they would get help in dealing with their physical and mental burdens—anxiety, depression, chronic pain, brain damage, and post-traumatic stress, to name a few. Instead, they regularly find a federal system that is overwhelmed, understaffed, and often poorly led, which relies on healthcare models that inundate patients with pills on top of pills. We have seen firsthand the destruction that comes when doctors pile powerful and addictive pharmaceuticals—opioids, stimulants, tranquilizers, and sedatives, among many—on veterans. This polypharmacy in our community is directly related to the rates of our statistically significant higher risk of overdose and suicide.
Cannabis offers an alternative to many of the pharmaceuticals that are prescribed for common veteran conditions, yet veterans are dying or running the risk of imprisonment because the federal government indefensibly treats cannabis like heroin or methamphetamine. Cannabis research and medication development is needed more now than ever, especially as the Department of Veteran Affairs continues to try to reduce their perceived over-prescription of opioids and taper and cut veteran patients off from medication they rely on to live. The National Academies of Science last year reviewed 10,000 cannabis-related studies and found strong and conclusive evidence for cannabis’ use in managing chronic pain. Cannabis is the obvious avenue of research to deal with the need for an effective non-opioid pain killer, but federal regulations make it near-impossible.
We appreciate your leadership on veterans and cannabis issues, and hope that you and your staff continue to engage with other offices about the need for cannabis access for veterans. We believe that the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act can help to ameliorate many of the issues we’ve outlined above. Veterans issues are American issues, and any cannabis medications that can help veterans can help tens of millions of more Americans. The federal government, however, has an explicit requirement to provide the best care possible to those it sends into harm’s way and it has yet to fulfill the spirit of that obligation. Veterans are suffering needlessly for lack of access to cannabis because of laws without any basis in science or good policy, and we must act now to correct this. The goal of achieving compassionate and just laws that recognize the medical use of cannabis is still in the distance, so we thank you and your office for this effort and hope to work together in the future to make good on this country’s promise to veterans.
Founder, Veterans Cannabis Coalition
Co-Founder, Veterans Cannabis Coalition