When our veterans return from service with chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), doctors at the VA should be able to exercise their best medical judgment to help ease their suffering. If a VA doctor believes that prescribing medical cannabis to a veteran will be the most effective treatment, that doctor should be able to do so. At the very least, the VA should be able to research the efficacy of medical cannabis in managing chronic pain conditions so that we can ensure our returning heroes receive the best possible medical care.
But under current law, the VA faces restrictions and red tape that make it difficult to even study the effects of medical cannabis for veterans. That doesn’t make any sense.
That’s why this week, a bipartisan coalition in Congress introduced new legislation that I cosponsored — the VA Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018 — that would promote research into the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis for veterans who have been diagnosed with chronic pain, PTSD, and other illnesses and injuries. Specifically, our bill makes explicit the VA’s authority to conduct and support research into the effects of medical marijuana — an issue I have repeatedly raised with the VA — and requires the VA to report to Congress on how it plans to exercise that authority.
This effort is particularly important at a time when many of our veterans are struggling with opioid addiction. Some 60% of returning service members suffer from chronic pain, and many of these veterans are prescribed opioids to help address their pain.
We have an opportunity to help ease the suffering of our veterans while also addressing the over-prescription of opioids, and I’m going to continue working with members of both parties to make sure we seize it.