According to a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Massachusetts, University of Utah, and cannabis research institutes, over 90 percent of U.S. military veterans who use Ganja (Marijuana) reported an improvement in their quality of life. Many veterans are turning to cannabis as a substitute for over-the-counter and prescription medications, as revealed by self-reported survey data from 510 participants.
Out of the respondents, a majority (67 percent) stated that they consume cannabis on a daily basis. Around one-third (30 percent) of the veterans reported using marijuana to reduce their reliance on other medications, including anti-depressants (25 percent) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (17 percent). Additionally, 21 percent mentioned that cannabis helped them decrease their use of opioid-based medications.
Overall, an overwhelming 91 percent of veterans claimed that cannabis had a positive impact on their quality of life. The study further highlighted that veterans who were Black, female, served in active combat, or lived with chronic pain were more inclined to reduce their reliance on prescription medications. Women and individuals who consumed cannabis daily were also more likely to actively use cannabis to reduce their need for prescription drugs.
The study, published in the journal Clinical Therapeutics, has certain limitations, such as relying on self-reported data and potential bias from media outlets and companies with an interest in cannabis. However, these findings align with previous research exploring marijuana as a potential alternative to prescription drugs.
There is a particular focus on studying cannabis as a treatment option for veterans, given the higher prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and elevated suicide rates within this population. A 2019 survey conducted by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) indicated that 20 percent of veterans use marijuana for medicinal purposes, while 66 percent engage in recreational cannabis consumption.
Regarding medical support, veterans can consult doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) regarding their cannabis use. However, doctors are still restricted from completing the necessary forms to issue medical cannabis recommendations in states where it is legal. There are bipartisan bills in Congress and attached amendments to VA spending legislation aimed at addressing this issue.
Separately, the House Armed Services Committee recently conducted a markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), during which GOP-led provisions were adopted to establish a medical marijuana "pilot program" and mandate a study on the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for active duty military members under the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).
In February, the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee approved a bill directing the VA to conduct studies on the therapeutic potential of marijuana for military veterans with specific conditions. This marked the first time standalone cannabis legislation advanced through a Senate panel. However, Senate Republicans blocked a procedural motion to bring it to the floor in April.
In May, Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) introduced a bill that seeks to promote research into the medical applications of marijuana for military veterans with PTSD, chronic pain, and other relevant conditions as determined by the VA secretary.
Last year, a coalition of over 20 veterans service organizations (VSOs) sent a letter to congressional leaders, urging the passage of a bill supporting marijuana and veterans research. Unfortunately, the bill did not progress.
In April, bipartisan lawmakers in the House and Senate reintroduced bills to legalize medical cannabis for military veterans.