The American Legion, the largest wartime veterans’ service group in the United States, released a national survey showing that an overwhelming majority of veterans support the legalization of medical marijuana.
According to the survey, more than 80 per cent of the veterans would want to see the substance as a federally legal option for medical treatment. The survey also showed that 92 per cent of veteran households back medical marijuana research for the treatment of physical and mental conditions.
The Legion, which has around two million members across the country, conducted its telephone survey from October 8 to 10, 2017, through independent public opinion research firm Five Corners Strategies. The results of the survey were announced at a press conference last week.
Veterans ask for relaxed federal restrictions on medical marijuana
Last year, the Legion has adopted a resolution calling on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the federal government, in general, to relax their restrictions on marijuana. They asked Congress to reclassify marijuana from currently being an illicit (Schedule 1) drug and to recognize it as a substance carrying potential medical value.
Moreover, the resolution seeks that the DEA license privately funded operations that produce medical marijuana.
Soldiers suffering from PTSD swear by marijuana
The veterans group argued that access to medical marijuana greatly helps in reducing suicide rates among soldiers and in easing their suffering as they return from the horrors they experience in the war.
The group’s spokesman, Joe Plenzler, said that there are young men and women suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain – especially those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan – who come to the Legion to personally attest that marijuana works.
According to Plenzler, who is a former lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, veterans turn to medical marijuana as alternative to drugs like opioids and anti-depressants, which they say adversely affect their personality and their mood. They also say that these drugs cause prevailing thoughts of suicide.
However, because marijuana is listed as a Schedule I substance, veterans are not able to get coverage for medical marijuana, even within those states that have already legalized it. When it comes to their health care, many of the veterans depend on the federal Veterans Affairs Department.
We owe it to our soldiers to do more marijuana research
At the press conference, National Director of Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Lou Celli stated that, at one point, he also did not believe in the benefits of medical marijuana. However, the veterans persisted and they are suffering.
Celli, a retired Army master sergeant and a former law enforcement officer, noted that there were veterans who claimed that the only reason they were still alive and didn’t commit suicide was medical marijuana. That, to him, was a powerful testimony of what marijuana can do.
Celli said that America owes it to these veterans to do the research.
He also said it is ironic that opioids, which cause the death of over 90 Americans every day, are listed as Schedule II and III narcotics. In fact, he cited that there were more opioid fatalities among Americans last year compared to the number of American soldiers who were killed in action in the Vietnam War.
The Legion stated that while the veterans’ stories are compelling, there is a need for more research to be done in order for lawmakers to have a fact-based discussion on future drug policy.
No support for recreational marijuana
The Legion made it very clear that its support for marijuana only goes as far as its use for medical purposes. It does not advocate the recreational use of the substance.