American Legion Marches to War for Legal Marijuana So Vets Can Treat PTSD and Other Conditions

Sadly, approximately 20 veterans commit suicide every single day, with PTSD-related issues being among the chief causes. While the military has spent huge sums and resources trying to address PTSD, the condition still plagues many veterans.  Indeed, between 10 to 20 percent of soldiers who served in a war zone will be afflicted with the condition. One treatment that has shown promise is marijuana, but if Jeff Sessions has his way, pot will once again be criminalized at the federal level, making it far more difficult for veterans to self-medicate with cannabis. As a result, the American Legion is pushing back against Sessions’ efforts to criminalize marijuana.

Following countless reports from veterans that marijuana is assisting with their ailments, the American Legion has evolved into one of the strongest marijuana decriminalization organizations in the United States. Back in 2016, the American Legion petitioned the government, asking Congress to remove marijuana from the Schedule 1 drug list. Such drugs are considered to have no medical use and are highly addictive.

Marijuana proponents argue that pot is not highly addictive and that it also has important medical applications. Various other medical and veteran groups have echoed these sentiments. Countless veterans have reported that marijuana helps treat pain while being far less addictive than opioids and that marijuana can reduce stress, paranoia, and other conditions associated with PTSD.

Chronic pain, in particular, is a grave threat to veterans. Approximately 60% of veterans returning from wars in the Middle East report suffering from chronic pain. Countless veterans are prescribed opioids to treat this pain, with an estimated 2 percent ultimately developing an addiction.

Countless people have reported that marijuana and cannabidiol oils have positive effects on a variety of conditions, including pain relief, stress relief, and seizure relief. However, because marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, little medical research has been conducted. It’s difficult for academics and researchers to both acquire and legally work with marijuana.

Kevin Sabet, the director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida, has called for increased research of the medical applications of marijuana. So far, much of the “research” is anecdotal, based on individual stories rather than statistically relevant studies. If marijuana were removed from the Schedule 1 list, it’d be easier to conduct legitimate research.

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“These men and women went out there [and] put their lives on the line, and they’re coming back from a war and they’re fighting a new war here in America. And that war is suicide and the opioid epidemic that we’re essentially fighting within ourselves.”

31 states have now legalized medical marijuana. However, veterans do not receive coverage for pot even if their doctors believe that it will help address their conditions. The American Legion’s national director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation, Louis Celli, has argued: “Even in the states where it’s legal, there’s still the stigma associated with the federal ban…it puts veterans in a very difficult position.”

The American public has warmed to legal marijuana in recent years. A Quinnipiac University poll last April found that 94 percent of Americans supported the legalization of doctor-prescribed marijuana. The Pew Research Center has found that 61 percent of Americans want marijuana to be outright legalized, paving the way for legal recreational use. Among Democrats, 69 percent support legalization, while only 43 percent of Republicans report the same. Among Republicans, 62 percent under the age of 40 support legalization.

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Last fall, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era Justice Department memo directing federal law enforcement agencies to shift resources away from marijuana in states that have legalized it. This hands-off approach spurred the growth of booming legal marijuana industries in California, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado. These states are now pulling in millions in tax revenue.

New Frontier Data claims that if marijuana were legalized at the federal level, it would generate over 1 million jobs and produce $131.8 billion in tax revenues by the year 2025.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Brian Brinker

Brian Brinker is a political consultant and has an M.A in Global Affairs from American University.

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