A new survey commissioned by the American Legion has found that an overwhelmingly large majority of the nation's veterans support legal medical cannabis. The organization surveyed 513 veterans and 289 caregivers from 39 states, and found that 83% think it’s time for the federal government to legalize medical marijuana. The survey also found that only 22% of those surveyed were currently using medical cannabis, even though 40% lived in states with legal medical marijuana programs.
The majority of the veterans and caregivers who responded to the poll were over the age of 60, and many veterans of this age group voted for Trump last year, according to exit polls cited by the Washington Post. This demographic isn’t typically 420-friendly, yet their support for medical marijuana research is almost unanimous; 92% of veteran households reported that they were in favor of furthering medical cannabis research.
The American Legion has been fighting to help veterans get access to medical cannabis for years. Last year, the organization called on the DEA to “recognize cannabis as a drug with potential medical value” and to “license privately funded medical marijuana production operations.” This year, the Legion adopted a resolution asking the Department of Veterans Affairs to allow its doctors to recommend medical cannabis.
“People ask ‘aren’t you a law and order group’. Why yes we are,” said Verna Jones, executive director of the American Legion, at a press conference held to discuss the poll. “But we’re also a group that takes care of veterans. And when veterans come to us and say a particular treatment is working for them, we owe it to them and listen.” However in a separate press statement, the group made it very clear that they are “NOT advocating for recreational use of marijuana.”
“The federal government has lied to the American people for a generation about cannabis in asserting it has no medical value,” said Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz at the press conference. “I can tell you it’s not true.” Gaetz also condemned New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's recent remarks likening medical cannabis to the opioid epidemic. “It is shortsighted, it is inaccurate and it is indefensible to suggest that the proliferation of medical cannabis that is saving lives and improving the quality of life for people is somehow analogous to the opioid crisis,” he said.
Gaetz added that he expects the House Judiciary Committee (on which he sits) will hold a hearing on legislation to expand medical cannabis research by year’s end.