The leader of the U.S.’s largest military veterans organization pressed Congress to allow the use of medical marijuana during a hearing on Wednesday.
“The federal government continues to list cannabis as a Schedule I drug – the most addictive and dangerous – although its addiction rates are lower than alcohol, and the less-restrictive Schedule II classification applies to opioids, which kill 91 Americans every day,” American Legion National Commander Denise H. Rohan said in testimony for a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees.
“The American Legion calls for immediate reclassification of cannabis to allow research into its potential for medical application, and if no medical value is found, The American Legion advocates its return to Schedule I,” she said. “By continuing to consider accumulating evidence of the efficacy of cannabis-based medicines, the federal schedule fails patients fighting debilitating conditions, including PTSD and potentially lethal opioid addiction.”
The organization, which represents more than 2.4 million military veterans, released a poll last year finding that 81% percent of veterans said they “want to have cannabis as a federally-legal treatment.”
The group has also adopted resolutions at its two most recent annual conferences calling on the federal government to reschedule marijuana and to let U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doctors recommend medical cannabis to their patients in states where it is legal.
In written testimony prepared for the congressional committees, the Legion’s Rohan called on lawmakers and the Trump administration to take three specific steps:
Immediately reschedule cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III on the DEA Controlled Substance Act Scheduling.
Direct departments and agencies within the administration to fully cooperate in all federally authorized scientific research and offer assistance as needed.
Authorize extensive research, conduct oversight hearings and support legislation that enables research on cannabis and the medical impact it could have for Americans suffering from opioid over-prescription, pain, depression and a host of other known ailments.
While the Veterans Affairs Sec. David Shulkin has consistently maintained that the V.A. is barred by federal law from recommending medical cannabis or even participating in research on the drug, the department quietly updated its website this month to acknowledge that it “can look at marijuana as an option for treating Veterans.”
Advocates have argued that there is no overarching federal law blocking the V.A. from changing its own internal policies on marijuana.
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN), who chaired the Wednesday hearing, said separately on Tuesday that he supports the V.A. researching marijuana.
“There is so much controversy about cannabis now,” Roe said. “We need to study that drug, like any other drug. Where there are benefits — if there are any — then we use it for what it’s researched for,” he told Stars and Stripes.
“I would support [Shulkin] if he did it,” the congressman said of cannabis research. “I will make that clear.”
— Drew Petrimoulx (@DrewPetrimoulx) February 28, 2018