The American Legion, representing millions of wartime vets, calls on Trump to loosen federal restrictions on medical marijuana research to help those suffering from PTSD, TBI, opioid abuse, and more.
After 16 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, many Americans view post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and traumatic brain injury, or TBI, as the “signature” wounds of these conflicts. The Department of Veterans Affairs has spent billions of dollars to better understand the symptoms, effects, and treatments for these injuries. But despite advances in diagnostics and interventions in a complex constellation of physical, emotional, behavioral and cognitive defects, TBI and PTSD remain leading causes of death and disability within the veteran community.
There is something else the U.S. can do for suffering veterans: research medical marijuana.
Many Afghanistan and Iraq veterans have contacted the American Legion to relay their personal stories about the efficacy of cannabis in significantly improving their quality of life by enabling sleep, decreasing the prevalence of night terrors, mitigating hyper-alertness, reducing chronic pain, and more. This is why the 2.2 million members of the American Legion are calling on the Trump administration to instruct the Drug Enforcement Agency to change how it classifies cannabis, release the monopoly on cultivation for research purposes, and immediately allow highly-regulated privately-funded medical marijuana production operations in the United States to enable safe and efficient cannabis drug development research.
Currently, medical researchers face onerous Food and Drug Administration, Drug Enforcement Administration, and National Institute on Drug Abuse bureaucratic hurdles to conducting research. Additionally, due to cannabis’ classification, all researchers must source their cannabis from the University of Mississippi – who holds a monopoly on producing the drug for federally-sanctioned research.
The opioid epidemic that continues to grip veterans is yet another reason to ease the federal government’s outdated attitude toward America’s marijuana supply. The Trump administration should lead a new effort to combat opioid abuse, and it should include the elimination of barriers to medical research on cannabis. The result, potentially, could provide a non-addictive solution to the most common debilitating conditions our veterans— and others in society— face, including chronic pain, PTSD, and TBI.
For nearly 90 years, the federal government has deliberately hindered medical research into therapeutic aspects of cannabis, and veterans struggling with PTSD and TBI today are suffering because of this misguided policy. Cannabis, which has been used by humans for food, oil, textiles, medicine, and religious purposes since at least 6,000 BCE, has suffered an image problem over the past century starting with America’s first drug czar Prohibition Agent Harry J. Anslinger’s race-baiting demonization of the drug during the Great Depression.
Today, despite considerable evidence to the contrary, the U.S. persists in listing cannabis alongside heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, as a Schedule I substance with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. By comparison, many of the highly addictive medications frequently prescribed to veterans are a direct pathway to the abuse of cocaine derivatives, methamphetamine, methadone, Demerol, oxycodone and, fentanyl that are classified as Schedule II drugs. These widely over-prescribed, powerful, and dangerous substances are currently fueling today’s opioid and heroin epidemics in America.
Cannabis’ Schedule I listing is disingenuous given the fact that the federal government cannot produce any research or evidence justifying its classification – which significantly hampers medical research into the therapeutic aspects of the drug. It’s a classic Catch-22.
The Legion is asking Congress to amend legislation to remove marijuana from Schedule I and reclassify it in a category that, at a minimum, will recognize cannabis as a drug with potential medical value.
A recent comprehensive study by the Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana at the National
Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that there is, “conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for the treatment” of chronic pain, reducing nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy, and lowering spasticity in multiple sclerosis sufferers, that there is “moderate evidence” that cannabis is effective in treating sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain, and “limited evidence” that cannabis improves symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and creates better outcomes after traumatic brain injury.
We need to know more. With 20 veterans committing suicide every day, we cannot afford to delay research into this promising potential solution.
To date, more than 28 states have legalized cannabis for the treatment of medical conditions, and this April, Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Darren Soto, D-Fla., introduced bipartisan legislation in the House to make marijuana a Schedule III drug – removing significant hurdles currently hindering medical research.
With 90 percent of Americans supporting legalization of medical marijuana today, it is time for Congress to act so that scientists may conduct advanced research into cannabis and PTSD/TBI and enable the American people to have a fact-based adult discussion about the therapeutic value of cannabis. Inevitably, cannabis will become a federally endorsed medical treatment for pain, epilepsy and a variety of other disorders. The only question is will this administration lead? Our veterans suffering from PTSD and TBI lives depend on it.
Joe Plenzler is director of media relations for the American Legion National Headquarters, in Washington, D.C and a 20-year combat veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps … FULL BIO
Lou Celli is director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation for the American Legion National Headquarters, in Washington, D.C., and a 22-year veteran of the U.S. Army …FULL BIO
This article was originally published by DefenseOne.com.
As we celebrate the anniversary of our nation’s independence, it’s important to remember one of the forgotten building blocks of America’s foundation — hemp.
Around tax time, we reminded you that hemp was literally such a vital fiber of American culture during the 1700s that it was considered an acceptable form of payment for annual taxes.
But hemp’s rich American heritage runs far deeper than the tax man’s pockets.
Published copies of Thomas Paine’s influential “Common Sense,” a revolutionary pamphlet that convinced many undecided American colonists that gaining independence from England was essential, were printed on hemp paper. Hemp paper, with its tougher-than-wood-pulp construction and far more sustainable grow cycle, was the preferred method of printing until widespread cannabis prohibition swallowed up industrial hemp production in its devastating path.
Once Americans officially cut ties with their red-coated counterparts, they needed to make things final by putting it in writing. Rumors abound on the internet that the first two drafts of the Declaration of Independence were penned on paper sourced from hemp, though the hearsay is merely that according to Politifact.
After the Declaration of Independence was signed and the United States of America was born, hemp played a pivotal role in helping our nation find its identity. In 1776, well-known hemp advocate and first President of the United States, George Washington, walked into an upholstery shop with Robert Morris and George Ross in search of a seamstress by the name of Betsy Ross. The trio showed Betsy a crude mockup of what would become our country’s first flag and asked if it was something she’d be able to produce. According to sworn affidavits from the Ross family verifying the oral history of the American flag’s origin, Betsy replied, “I do not know, but I will try.”
Betsy surpassed even her own early expectations and made the hell out that first flag — and she did it using Mother Nature’s most efficient-yet-demonized fibrous resource.
In 2013, Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado requested that an American flag made of industrial hemp be flown over the United States Capitol to commemorate the plant’s integral role in early American history.
“Many of our founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew hemp,” Polis explained. “Many of the very first American flags were made from hemp cloths. So there’s a real tie in to our countries history and the important rule industrial hemp played in agriculture in our country.”
As important as hemp was to our country’s formation, it’s poised to make an even greater impact on America’s future. More than 30 states have now passed legislation loosening restrictions on industrial hemp farming and production for either commercial or research purposes.
So, on this 4th of July, as you spark your Presidential OG (or Liberty Haze for the Sativa-leaning patriots) and slather up your burgers and dogs in medicated toppings, know that you’re celebrating not just America’s freedom but the tremendous role cannabis played in our country’s independence.
Massachusetts High Court Rules On Work and Weed; Gov. Prepares to Sign Legalization Into Law
Massachusetts’ medical marijuana patients receive legal cover from state Supreme Court ruling as Gov. Charlie Baker prepares to sign legalization into law.
Yep, it was a busy week for marijuana enthusiasts in the “Bay State.”
On Monday, a Massachusetts High Court ruled workers couldn’t be fired for using medical marijuana. Then, on Thursday, policymakers in the state legislature sent a revamped version of the voter-passed marijuana legislation to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk for signing.
Anticipated to approve the modified measure, Gov. Baker’s signature will elevate the ballot question’s projected marijuana tax rate, provide joint oversight of both the recreational and medical marijuana programs, and modify how local municipalities can prohibit recreational marijuana stores, according to the Boston Globe.
“The Senate enacted the measure on a 32 -6 vote. On Wednesday, the House voted 136 – 11 to move the bill forward.”
As for working with THC metabolites in your body, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled on Monday that a female employee who was fired for medicating with medicinal cannabis could sue her former employer.
Sending Christina Barbuto’s case against Advantage Sales and Marketing back to the Massachusetts Superior Court, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court decided that employers could not impose a wholesale anti-marijuana rule against employees who have received a doctor’s recommendation for medicinal cannabis.
Exceptional news for patients in Massachusetts, according to Mass Live, “the ruling affirmatively recognizes a level of work-related protection under state medical marijuana laws.”
Now legal to “fire up” for both medicinal and recreational purposes in Massachusetts, employees will still face serious scrutiny by their employers for any recreational pot use. As the Mass Live post noted, “Workers can still be drug tested and fired for failing a drug test if it is not part of an approved treatment plan for a medical condition.”
Main photo courtesy of Allie Beckett
Allow Cannabis Use:
Back in November, Denver voters passed Initiative 300, where Denver businesses can apply for permits to allow for public cannabis consumption on their premises — the first of its kind in the nation. Initiative 300 calls for the rollout of a four-year social use pilot program that will now launch in the coming months.
Denver businesses hoping to acquire a permit for a social consumption area will be able to submit an application until the end of August. Permits will be available on an annual basis for brick-and-mortar businesses or a temporary basis for event organizers. If a business has their application for a permit approved by Denver’s Department of Excise and Licenses, the fees will amount to $2,000, though it is not yet clear how much of that fee would have to be paid in subsequent years to renew a permit.
Which types of businesses are expected to participate?
While coffee shops and restaurants figure to claim many of the social use area permits in Denver, there are a surprising number of other businesses interested in catering to their cannabis-loving clientele. There has been tremendous interest from yoga studios, gyms, bookstores, and other establishments where people who love marijuana also love to spend time. Business owners hope the intersection of cultures will enhance the experience for some of their customers and create increased brand loyalty.
Who is prohibited from applying for a permit?
Businesses already permitted to cultivate or sell marijuana in the City of Denver will be prohibited from applying for a social use permit, as will restaurants and bars that hold liquor licenses. However, there is a loophole that will allow one business to hold a social use permit and a liquor license, provided the business does not serve alcohol while the social use area is actively being used. This means a bar could host a cannabis-driven event after hours when alcohol sales are finished or during the day when the bar is closed. Businesses or events that operate on public property or land owned by the City of Denver will be barred from securing a permit as well, i.e. Red Rocks Amphitheater.
What changes have been made to Initiative 300 since November?
One major change that will make implementation of Initiative 300 run far smoother is the exclusion of a previous requirement that would have asked businesses to collect signed waivers from any customer wishing to enter the social consumption area. Instead, the smoking areas will now only need to be affixed with a sign reminding customers that “they are responsible for their own actions, must consume marijuana responsibly, should not drive impaired and cannot share marijuana in exchange for money.”
Another early provision of Initiative 300 would have called for businesses to develop a new ventilation plan should they allow vaping in their consumption area, a requirement that was deemed redundant considering the city’s current building and ventilation codes.
Though there are still points of contention, such as advertising restrictions for cannabis events and relatively strict zoning regulations, both lawmakers and cannabis advocates alike can at least be proud that they’ve taken a giant leap in progressing marijuana culture forward in Colorado — and hopefully beyond.
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