Military veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan strongly support legalizing marijuana and increasing research into the medical benefits of cannabis, according to a new survey.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), a group representing more than 400,000 veterans, released the survey on Wednesday. It showed that 83 percent support allowing legal access to medical marijuana, while 55 percent back recreational legalization. That’s a significant jump in support; the organization’s 2017 survey found that only 44 percent of veterans supported full legalization that year.
— Paul (PJ) Rieckhoff (@PaulRieckhoff) January 30, 2019
There’s also significant interest among veterans in using cannabis or cannabinoid products as an alternative treatment option, with 89 percent indicating they’d pursue that option if it was available to them.
Currently, physicians at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are allowed to discuss medical cannabis with veterans, but they’re barred by internal administrative rules from recommending it. Eighty-two percent of survey respondents said they’re at least “a little comfortable” discussing marijuana with their doctor, including 51 percent who said they were “very comfortable” talking about it.
There’s also a widespread consensus that cannabis should be researched. Ninety percent said the plant should generally be studied for medical uses and 85 percent said the VA specifically should be allowed to conduct such research.
Of course, the department has been allowed to research medical cannabis for veterans—it just hasn’t followed through. That’s why when lawmakers re-introduced legislation this month to encourage VA research into marijuana, the language was amended from last year’s version to include a more forceful mandate. Previous versions of the bill said the VA “may” study cannabis, whereas these latest versions all stipulate that the department “shall” do the research.
90% of #IAVA member respondents support researching #cannabis for medical purposes, 83% agree cannabis should be legal for medical purposes, and 55% agree cannabis should be legal for recreational purposes. #VetsRising
— IAVA (@iava) January 30, 2019
“Veterans consistently and passionately have communicated that cannabis offers effective help tackling some of the most pressing injuries they face when returning from war,” IAVA wrote. “Our nation is rapidly moving toward legalizing cannabis, and 33 states now permit medical cannabis.”
“Across party lines, medical cannabis is largely unopposed. Yet our national policies are outdated, research is lacking, and stigma persists.”
Here are some other findings from the survey:
—20 percent of respondents said they’ve used cannabis for medical purposes.
—Of that group, 66 percent said they’ve also used cannabis for recreational purposes.
—52 percent of respondents live in a state where medical marijuana is legal.
—26 percent said they live in a state where marijuana is fully legal.
The IAVA survey included responses from more than 4,600 of the group’s members and was conducted from October 19-November 19.
By and large, the results reflect a consistent sentiment among veterans. In 2017, another group representing veterans, the American Legion, released a survey of its members in 2017 showing that 92 percent want research into medical marijuana, 83 percent support medical cannabis legalization and 81 percent said they’d be interested in cannabis as an alternative treatment option.