More US military veterans are using weed than ever, according to a new research study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors.
A team of researchers from California and Connecticut conducted this study to discover whether veterans' rates of cannabis use have been increasing over the last decade. Researchers collected data from the 2019-2020 National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study, a national survey that asks veterans to self-report their physical and mental health as well as their recent substance use.
In the present survey, 4,069 veterans between the ages of 22 and 99 were asked whether they had used cannabis within the past six months. Veterans were also asked if they were registered with a legal medical marijuana program in their home state and assessed to determine if their weed use qualified as “cannabis use disorder” (CUD).
An analysis of the survey data revealed that 11.9 percent of veterans had used cannabis within the past six months. In 2014, the last time that researchers estimated veterans' cannabis use, that rate was only 9 percent. In the present survey, 2.7 percent of all respondents screened positive for CUD, and 1.5 percent of veterans said that they had a medical marijuana card.
The study also found that younger veterans and veterans with psychiatric conditions were more likely to use cannabis, possess a medical marijuana card, or screen positive for CUD. Younger age, alcohol use disorder, and childhood adversity were also linked to increased rates of cannabis use or CUD, and veterans suffering from depression were also more likely to qualify for a CUD diagnosis.
The discrepancy between veterans' higher rates of cannabis use and lower rates of enrollment in state medical marijuana programs is largely due to federal restrictions against cannabis use. Although veterans diagnosed with PTSD or chronic pain can legally use medical pot in many states, federal law makes it very difficult for them to do so. Any veteran that is caught using weed can lose their federal benefits, including home loans and medical assistance.
These restrictions force many veterans to source their medicine from the black market. One recent survey found that 52 percent of veterans living in Texas were using illegally-sourced weed to help treat their PTSD symptoms. Another survey reported that 92 percent of veteran households support medical cannabis research, and 82 percent said they want to have access to federally-legal medical pot.
But despite this strong show of support, the feds have held fast on their opposition to cannabis. Progressive lawmakers have been fighting to grant veterans the right to use medical pot for years now, but GOP Congressional leaders have shot down each and every one of their proposals.
Even so, pro-veteran lawmakers are continuing their fight, and have already filed two separate bills this year that would help America's service members gain access to natural medicine that can help them heal.