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Changing the Culture With Research, So Vets Have Data on Medical Cannabis for Pain and PTSD
As a U.S. Navy SEAL veteran, I’m no stranger to the long-term damaging effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain. PTSD is a real and serious condition that has impacted many in U.S. society. Military veterans, though certainly not the only ones, are especially vulnerable to post-traumatic stress.
One challenge facing health providers creating treatment programs is that traumatizing events are subjective. What may induce a traumatic experience in one person, might not with another. This is very true with law enforcement, fire department and emergency medical services — but especially with military veterans concerning society.
On November 4, the House Veterans Affairs Committee approved legislation called the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act. I was surprised that the Biden administration spoke in opposition to the bill. If passed, it would require the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct a series of clinical studies on cannabis to treat PTSD and chronic pain in veterans.
In military special operations, individual expectations are extremely high. They are put in situations where traumatic experiences become routine. Decades ago, dealing with trauma was up to the individual.
Most operators would keep any PTSD symptoms hidden as a rule. You would never want to let anyone know you’re in pain. This resulted in people self-medicating, mainly with alcohol because it was easily accessible and culturally acceptable.
Although I’m not a cannabis user, I know military service members with intense combat experience who have benefitted from its use. Still, like any treatment, professionally structured use is critical. I support our government funding more research, initiating programs, and prescribing its use under medical conditions.
I have a close colleague and friend who is a US Navy veteran, on the technology and electronic warfare side, and worked in intelligence. He had terrible migraines and pain as a result of his service. After trying cannabis to moderate his symptoms, he now swears by the medicinal plant to help with the pain.
We’ve come a long way in how we address post-traumatic stress and its symptoms. Private research and clinical studies analyzed decades of war and its effects. There is much more information and support in managing the symptoms of the disorder and getting treatment now.
According to a 2019 survey conducted by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), three out of four of vets say they’d consider using “cannabis or cannabinoid products as a treatment option.” Medical cannabis access was supported by 83%, while 68% believed that the VA should “allow for research into cannabis as a treatment option.”
A recent study from Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania also found that PTSD sufferers who used cannabis were 2.5 times more likely to recover.
Cannabis has proven to benefit veterans struggling with pain and insomnia, symptoms of depression and anxiety, and PTSD. Unfortunately, only 50% of veterans that return from service seek help.
This bill ensures that vets are not penalized for using medical cannabis. It also allows doctors to freely discuss the risks and benefits of cannabis use with their patients, without fear of being punished by the VA. This is truly the next step for research into medical cannabis use. It will allow doctors and veterans to decide a treatment plan using hard data.
Questions will remain, including once veterans have possibly “recovered” from their symptoms. Can they stop consuming cannabis? Or do they need to continue treatment in moderate doses? Continued research can help find the answers.
The proposed bill will help medical professionals with much-needed data. It will change the culture from one of negativity surrounding treatment with cannabis to a positive relationship with the plant for its healing properties. Research and data in the hands of doctors is the key to changing that culture forever, de-stigmatizing the plant and getting U.S. veterans the options they need.
Tim Tofaute is the Director of Security and Operations for Operational Security Solutions (OSS). He provides day-to-day supervision of OSS security personnel, Cash-In Transit (CIT) personnel, vault and teller personnel, and all affiliated contractors. Tofaute also directs all OSS security policies, procedures, field operations, and training.
About Operational Security Solutions
Operational Security Solutions (OSS) was assembled in 2017 by a team of former law enforcement, military and federal service professionals to support the security and banking needs of the legal cannabis industry. OSS breaks down the real risks for an industry that has limited access to banking services and provides the solutions needed from long years of law enforcement and government experience.
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- Lawmakers ask MO governor to add cannabis legalization in special sessionA bipartisan group of lawmakers and activists are calling for Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to include marijuana legalization on the agenda of the legislature’s upcoming special session.
- In Brief: Pa. Governor Accepting Cannabis Pardon Requests in Sept.Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman announce the PA Marijuana Pardon Program, offering expedited pardon reviews to people convicted of only minor cannabis possession for personal use.
- Michigan State Police stops cannabis testing after false positivesMichigan State Police have acknowledged that its blood tests for marijuana are producing false positives for THC, and it will immediately halt testing.
- Missouri Dems expect boost from cannabis, but split on specificsSupport for legalization and heartburn about the amendment’s details have led to soul-searching among Democratic Party officials across the state. The consternation is particularly acute among Black Democratic leaders.
- Signatures on Nebraska medical cannabis petitions to get another lookThe Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office has agreed to take another look at signatures submitted by a group seeking legalization of medical marijuana to determine if they should have been counted.
- Nebraska senator pledges to seek special session to legalize medical cannabisAdvocates for legalization of medical marijuana were pursuing a trio of options Tuesday after their attempt at qualifying the issue for the November ballot fell short.
- Adult-use cannabis unlikely to be on Oklahoma ballot in NovemberThe Yes on 820 campaign faces several obstacles in the last part of its journey to the ballot as another challenge period will last at least 10 business days and the state Election Board needs time to print ballots for overseas voters.
- Lawsuit asks to block cannabis legalization from Missouri ballotAn anti-drug legalization activist has filed a lawsuit arguing a recreational marijuana initiative petition was improperly certified by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and should not appear on the November ballot.
- Cannabis legalization advocates turn THC customers into political alliesNow that Minnesota has legalized hemp-derived THC products as of July 1, proponents of full legalization are activating a new resource in the political battle over the green plant’s future: customers.