Federally Approved PTSD Marijuana Research Being Obstructed by Phoenix VA Healthcare System

Federally approved PTSD marijuana research meant for military veterans is being slowed by the Phoenix VA Healthcare System preventing the recruitment effort of test subjects. The American Legion has been calling for rescheduling of marijuana for a long time so that official research can be conducted to back the testimonials of veterans that claim to have seen remarkable benefits from medical marijuana.

In particular, the American Legion is pushing for more research considering the opioid epidemic that is directly impacting U.S. military veterans that have developed addictions to pain killers. How could the negative stigma associated with marijuana be so ingrained in people that they even obstruct federally approved research on medical marijuana?

Members of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs are urging Veterans Administration Secretary David Shulkin to ensure the VA’s research and development office fulfills “its stated mission,” by allowing research into the effects of marijuana on military veterans suffering from chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The letter, issued Thursday, was signed by all 10 Democratic representatives on the committee. It is the latest effort on the part of some lawmakers and veterans’ organizations calling for such studies to proceed.

A spokesman for the American Legion said his organization is “ecstatic” that representatives sent on this letter to Shulkin.

“For several years the American Legion has been pressing the federal government to remove cannabis from Schedule I of Controlled Substances Act so that medical investigators could research the drug and its efficacy in treating PSTD, chronic pain and other illnesses that affect veterans,” Joe Plenzler, director of media relations for the American Legion, told The Cannabist by phone.

Plenzler also noted the letter’s timeliness, given that the national opioid epidemic has had a disproportionate impact on America’s veterans. The letter came out the same day President Donald Trump officially declared opioids a public health emergency.

“Many veterans have told us that they have found relief from medical cannabis and have been able to stop taking VA-prescribed opioids,” he added. “While we can’t change policy based on their compelling stories, we need to do the research so that we can have a national, fact-based adult conversation on the future of cannabis policy in America.”

Last month the Legion, the nation’s largest veterans organization, called for “direct involvement” from top VA officials to remove obstacles that have been threatening the completion of a pioneering clinical study involving medical marijuana as a potential treatment for PTSD in veterans.

The federally-approved clinical trials are based in Arizona, and funded with grants from Colorado’s health department. But the study’s administrator, Dr. Sue Sisley, says the Phoenix VA Health Care System has been obstructing patient recruitment efforts, an action that has put the future of the study in jeopardy.

“I’m immensely disappointed that our VA secretary could not take the initiative to support this research on his own,” Sisley said in a statement to The Cannabist, adding that “he’s had a golden opportunity to support an FDA-approved clinical trial looking at safety/efficacy of cannabis for past year” but has yet to take action and request Phoenix VA officials’ cooperation in the study.

This past summer, meanwhile, a House Rules Committee blocked a bipartisan medical marijuana amendment, which would have banned federal funds from interfering with a veteran’s ability to take part in a state-sanctioned medical cannabis program.

It also would have allowed VA doctors in those states to make recommendations about medical marijuana to patients, access forms and take other steps to help veterans comply with those medical marijuana programs.

House VA committee’s letter to Secretary David Shulkin RE: marijuana research (PDF) House VA committee’s letter to Secretary David Shulkin RE: marijuana research (Text)

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Richard Lowe

Richard Lowe is a 14-year veteran of the financial sector with licenses as a commodity broker (Series 3) and investment advisor representative (IAR Series 65). Along with a focus on raising capital for the firms he was employed with, he also wrote and edited much of the content published by them. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts. He has been a longtime advocate for marijuana legalization due to the social injustices associated with marijuana prohibition and the strong potential for the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

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One Comment

  1. No one has the right to tell anyone what they can and cannot have. God gave it to all men if they choose to use it. Perhaps this is why big pharma can’t let it go. Maybe they’re jealous of God. They should have sold it years ago and made money instead of worrying about their friends in the pill, alcohol and tobacco industries. Things would have been better if they had. It’s still not too late.

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