The American Legion is one of the largest veterans’ organizations in the nation. In a speech to the National Press Club in Washington DC last Friday, the American Legion called upon the federal government to legitimize medical cannabis and invest in its research.
American Legion Officials Want to See Veterans Supported with Medical Marijuana Research
In Friday’s speech, American Legion Commander Denise Rohan summarized a plan that would improve the delivery of benefits to more than 20 million vets in the US. Medical marijuana was part of this plan.
Rohan believes that in achieving the objective to ensure that military veterans are taken care of, “we have to find replacements for the opioid epidemic we have in this nation.”
Medical marijuana has shown in countless studies to reduce opioid dependency. It’s also an effective substitute for opioids that are prescribed for pain.
According to Joe Plenzer, spokesman for the American Legion, prescription opioids should be considered “zombie drugs.” He says not only do opioids negatively affect the mood and personality of vets, but also increase the risk of suicide.
Louis Celli is the National Director of Veteran’s Affair and Rehabilitation at the American Legion. In Friday’s meeting, Celli reiterated the need for alternative treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pain, and other ailments.
“We just need to know,” said Celli, “that the American government is focused on trying to find cures for not only veterans, but for all Americans. And if cannabis, which is a drug, is something that can help, they have to do research on that.”
VA Refuses to Look at Medical Marijuana as a Viable Alternative Despite Overwhelming Support
While the VA is supposed to be an organization that stands behind veterans and their needs, they have largely refused to look at medical cannabis a viable treatment. This is despite the fact that there is overwhelming support to see marijuana as an alternative available to veterans.
A survey conducted by the American Legion last year was published in January and showed that most veterans want to see medical cannabis legalized at the federal level. Of the 1,360 people that responded to the survey, 81 percent of military vets and 83 percent of caregivers favored federal medical marijuana laws.
Some Veterans Uncertain About Medical Marijuana After Years of Being Told It’s Wrong
When Celli was asked on Friday if he had seen any pushback to the organization’s stance on medical cannabis because of the stigmas still associated with marijuana use, he said that he had. He believes that ambivalence about medical cannabis comes from years of being told that marijuana is bad and immoral.
“I would say we’re getting pushback,” Celli said. “What we’re getting is…stories from veterans who live in states that have legal cannabis programs, and they’re participating in these programs with a feeling of inner guilt.”
He says that veterans in legal medical marijuana programs see cannabis as a valid treatment, but at the same time feel that they could be “on the wrong side of the law.”
What could be done to change this? The answer is simple.
“They are looking for the federal government to invest in this research,” Celli said, “to validate what they’re experiencing.”