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Old protocols preclude medical cannabis from Veterans' benefits

Florida has a large population of military veterans. When Veterans' benefits become a part of the public discourse, there is usually wide interest among this state's former military members. Sometimes, however, legislation is proposed that helps the public in general but neglects addressing the special needs of veterans.

One such bill, the States Act, was introduced in the U.S. Congress recently. It protects the public from federal intervention in each state's right to independently regulate the research and use of medical cannabis. The bill is receiving bipartisan support; it would protect millions of citizens from federal prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act. It does not, however,  mention the nine million veterans who rely on the federal Veterans' Health Administration for medical services.

Recent research indicates that cannabis components offer dramatic potential in treating numerous conditions. This includes positive results in shrinking certain tumors, controlling or reducing the symptoms of several diseases, and generally for the control of chronic pain. It also reportedly shows potential as a treatment for reducing or eliminating the use of addictive narcotics.

The issue is important to most veterans. The venerable American Legion published survey results indicating that 82 percent of veterans believe that medical cannabis should be available as a federally-legal substance. Reportedly, 83 percent favored the outright legalization of cannabis for medical use. Over 90 percent favor research into medical cannabis.

The current federal drug schedules, which do impact Florida residents, list marijuana as a dangerous substance along with addictive hard drugs. Prevention of critically needed research by federal agencies, including the VHA, keeps the pace of discovery limited, contrary to veterans' preferences. The current policy also precludes veterans from receiving medical cannabis treatments through authorized Veterans' benefits protocols. The federal government's assessment of cannabis is unsupported and contradicted by medical research.

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