The American Legion has requested a meeting with White House officials to discuss rescheduling marijuana to “clear the way for clinical research.”
The American Legion has once again urged the Trump administration to reschedule marijuana to allow for research into its potential benefits for treating traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The nation’s largest veterans service organization sent a letter to the White House requesting a meeting with officials to discuss critical veterans’ issues, including a call to “clear the way for clinical research in the cutting edge areas of cannabinoid receptor research.”
As the rules stand now, doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs are not allowed to discuss marijuana as a treatment option with patients. Evidence indicates that cannabis can help control symptoms and improve recovery in patients with PTSD and TBI. However, more studies into cannabis’ efficacy are needed and the substance’s classification as Schedule I severely hinders research efforts.
“We are not asking for it to be legalized,” said Louis Celli, national director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation for the American Legion, which represents 2.5 million military veterans. “There is overwhelming evidence that it has been beneficial for some vets. The difference is that it is not founded in federal research because it has been illegal.”
Associated with severe anxiety, nightmares and uncontrollable flashbacks, PTSD is a mental condition that develops following the experience of a traumatic event. TBI is a brain injury caused by a blow to the head. There’s a high prevalence of both conditions among veterans that have seen combat.
The American Legion’s plea to lift marijuana research restrictions isn’t surprising. Last December, prior to Trump taking office, the American Legion encouraged the Trump transition team to reschedule cannabis in a meeting. In September, the veterans organization made a public call for Congress to amend its marijuana laws and recognize cannabis’ medicinal properties.
Sue Sisley, psychiatrist at the Scottsdale Research Institute in Arizona, is currently running one of the few studies investigating cannabis’ effects on veterans suffering from PTSD.
“We desperately need more research in this area to inform policymakers,” Sisley told Politico. “I really want to see the most objective data published in peer reviewed medical journals.”
“I don’t know if cannabis will turn out to be helpful for PTSD,” Sisley added. “I know what veterans tell me but until we have rigorous controlled trials, all we have are case studies that are not rigorous enough to make me, medical professionals, health departments or policymakers convinced.”
Earlier this week, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin announced in front of an assembled crowd of journalists that the VA is considering the American Legion proposal and are at least “interested in looking” at medical marijuana for veterans.
“Right now, federal law does not prevent us at VA to look at that as an option for veterans,” Shulkin said. “There may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful, and we’re interested in looking at that.”
While Shulkin’s comments suggest that a change in medical marijuana policy for veterans is at least being considered, he reiterated that as of now VA doctors are still restricted from discussing cannabis.
“Until such a time that federal law changes,” he said, “ we are not able to prescribe medical marijuana.”
Despite cannabis’ Schedule I classification federally, medical marijuana is currently legal in 29 U.S. states. Learn more about what research has found about cannabis and PTSD and TBI, as well as cannabis laws throughout the U.S., by visiting our education page.