These aren't your filthy hippies and stoners looking for an excuse to toke (not that there's anything wrong with that!): The American Legion is calling for the federal government to reclassify marijuana to acknowledge its potential benefits as a medical treatment.
As Jacob Sullum previously noted, The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is stubbornly refusing to change the federal classification of marijuana as a drug that has no "accepted medical use" until science proves them wrong. Fortunately they're easing off on the Catch-22 situation that has resulted in this classification making it extremely difficult for researchers to perform the very scientific testing that could determine marijuana's medical value.
One of the potential medical values of medical marijuana is as a treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And in what must certainly at this point make it abundantly clear where the majority of Americans stand on marijuana use, the American Legion has just voted at its national convention to support a resolution calling on Congress to legislatively reclassify cannabis and place it in a category that recognizes its potential value.
The resolution, readable here at marijuana.com, highlights a number of important statistics that have helped push the Legion to support it. Across two years, the Department of Veterans Affairs have diagnosed thousands of Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans as having PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). More than 1,300 veterans in fiscal year 2009 were hospitalized for brain injuries. And the resolution notes that systems in the brain can respond to 60 different chemicals found in cannabis.
Therefore, the American Legion wants the DEA to license privately-funded medical marijuana and research facilities and to reclassify marijuana away from being lumped in with drugs like cocaine and meth.
Tom Angell over at marijuana.com notes that Sue Sisley, a psychiatrist and medical marijuana researcher, has been lobbying the Legion and their local posts to get their support. Sisley is notable for actually getting federal permission to research marijuana as a treatment for PTSD and then getting dumped by the University of Arizona (where she worked) in 2014.
What does this mean for a legislative effort to give VA docs permission to actually talk about medical marijuana as a treatment for veterans? As I noted in May, there was an amendment to a military appropriations bill that would end a gag order that prohibits VA doctors from recommending or even discussing medical marijuana treatment with patients, even in states where it had been legalized. The amendment would end the gag order, but wouldn't permit the VA to prescribe or pay for marijuana.
The amendment passed the House and Senate, but as Angell notes, after the two sides went through the reconciliation to hammer out any difference, the language completely disappeared. It is no longer part of the Veterans Administration package.
Legislators return to session today to hammer out last-minute spending bills to keep the government running (and the Democrats and Republicans are currently in disagreement on how long to extend spending authorizations for the incoming administration). Technically the amendment's language could be restored.