As a result of their military service, roughly 60% of veterans withstand daily chronic pain. According to the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, about 19% of veterans face the debilitating symptoms of PTSD, not to mention insomnia and depression. Rather than take dangerously addictive opioids for their discomfort, 1 in 5 former servicemen and women opt for cannabis or cannabis products for symptom management. A recent poll showed that 81% of veterans and 92% of their caregivers support legalizing medical marijuana. Despite the scientifically proven medicinally beneficial qualities of cannabinoids, discrimination against cannabis use not only continues to plague not only those persons who have been separated from the military, but has also been deterring able-bodied Americans who wish to rejoin to serve their country once more.
In an answer to the query of why the the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doesn’t allow medical cannabis prescriptions, even in medically legal marijuana states, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in an interview with Colorado Public Radio,
“As long as it is against federal law, it is up to the Congress to change the way we do things.”
Congressman Ruben Gallego, Representative of Arizona’s 7th District, introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act For the Fiscal Year of 2021 (FY21NDAA) disputing this archaic decree by the VA. The new provision (which was also introduced in 2018 and 2019) includes verbiage explaining persons of prior service who admit to smoking weed following their separation from the military should be granted a second chance at consideration for enlistment, rather than be excluded for breaking federal law. Rep. Gallego spoke of the of the revolutionary rule change’s possible implementation next year in a press release:
“Smoking pot just once shouldn’t prevent a patriotic American from fighting for our country… we need to exercise common sense when it comes to our marijuana policies. I’m glad my#FY21NDAA amendment will lead us in that direction by allowing case-by-case reenlistment waivers.
Until cannabis is federally legalized, the VA officially continues to take the stance of observing the Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s assessment of marijuana as a schedule 1 drug.