Ret. Navy SEAL: Biden should support medical cannabis research bill

Ret. Navy SEAL: Biden should support medical cannabis research bill

Note: Opinions expressed by contributors are their own and may not reflect those of Profiles in Legalization.

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.

Cannabis is just another bullet in the bandolier, and I believe it has had a positive impact. It helps treat PTSD symptoms like anxiety, fear and flashbacks. Unfortunately, our military is still culturally behind and bears real animus toward the plant.

Tim Tofaute, Operational Security Solutions

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.