The VA May Finally Conduct a Study on Cannabis's Impact on Pain and PTSD
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced online that it would take applications for a new medical cannabis study involving chronic pain and PTSD among US military vets, but then took the posting down for “edits.”
Published on March 3, 2020

The US Department of Veterans Affairs is finally interested in investigating cannabis as a medical treatment for chronic pain and post-traumatic stress (PTSD) afflicting American military veterans.

According to a recent posting on its website, the federal agency requested previously-published scientific and medical paper submissions for its consideration. However, almost as quickly as the announcement was made, the agency took down the post for “edits” and said it would repost the request at a later date, Marijuana Moment reported. 

And while it’s totally cool that the VA is taking a serious look at medical cannabis for US troops, one has to wonder why a federal department operating with a $220 billion budget needs the public to perform Google searches on its behalf.

Anyway, the now-deleted post asked for published studies that addressed cannabis’s ability to treat “[u]nrelieved neuropathic pain experienced… after spinal cord or peripheral nerve injury." These injuries contribute to clinical “depression, anxiety, disrupted sleep, and overall decreased quality of life,” including PTSD, which currently has no cure and is difficult to treat with conventional medications. PTSD and other mental illnesses related to serving in combat are responsible for veterans’ high suicide rates. On average, active-duty service members and retired veterans commit suicide roughly every hour of every day in the US. 

“A large percentage of Veterans who seek relief from these conditions, resort to smoking marijuana or use unregulated dietary cannabis supplements, etc,” the VA’s post stated. “It is therefore imperative to determine which cannabinoid compounds are truly effective, for which symptoms, in which populations, as well as the associated risks.”

The VA continued that the paper submissions would be reviewed by the agency. If the agency feels that the science supports further investigation into medical cannabis, it could begin clinical trials. 

However, the VA only wanted papers that met certain rigid criteria, Marijuana Moment wrote. All paper submissions must include a formulation and route of administration for the cannabinoid products; include the process for making those products; could only include cannabis compounds that weren’t already approved for medical use by the FDA (which means CBD and possibly THC are off the table); and contain data that showed the cannabis compounds were effective for treating pain, PTSD, and the other aforementioned conditions. 

Although the VA has not made any new announcements regarding the public paper submissions, the original due date the agency listed was March 15. Likely, that date will move up after the new revised announcement is made. You know — if it’s ever actually made.

As much as we’d love to praise the VA for taking steps to not only advance medical cannabis — but to also bring much needed assistance to our nation’s troops — we can’t help but think this is just another attempt to bureaucratically stonewall federal cannabis research. After all, over the past couple of years, the VA refused to launch any studies into medical cannabis due to the plant’s federally outlawed status. Under federal law, marijuana is a Schedule I substance, considered just as dangerous as heroin and lacking any “accepted medical use.”

The situation looks even more grim when considering that the VA’s big boss is President Trump. Last month, a Trump campaign spokesman said the president would not legalize cannabis — to protect the nation’s children, of course. (Keep in mind this is the same guy who thinks low-income kids should starve or die from preventable illnesses.) 

Trump’s 2021 federal budget proposal also removes protections for state medical marijuana programs, which currently bar federal law enforcement agencies from prosecuting cannabis patients, cultivators, manufacturers, and dispensaries that follow state laws.

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Randy Robinson
Based in Denver, Randy studied cannabinoid science while getting a degree in molecular biology at the University of Colorado. When not writing about cannabis, science, politics, or LGBT issues, they can be found exploring nature somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Catch Randy on Twitter and Instagram @randieseljay
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