Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11 each year, honoring the service of all U.S. military veterans and meant to thank living veterans for their sacrifices. There were around 16.5 million veterans in the U.S. in 2021, according to
When we talk about post-service military vets, we often must address other social issues that affect this population, including healthcare access, living with disabilities or chronic pain,
As a group who often need more resources and care throughout their lives following service, many vets have turned toward cannabis, or even psychedelic substances like psilocybin, to find relief. Though, these endeavors mirror some of the larger conversations around accessibility. Sure, we’ve come a long way, but we still have a ways to go.
Cannabis consumers seek out the innovative plant medicine for a variety of reasons, but Veterans Day is a solemn reminder of those folks who could greatly benefit from cannabis reform, finding new ways to manage their
As we advocate for cannabis as a whole, we mustn’t leave out veterans.
Cannabis, Veterans Affairs and Accessibility
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
In 2016, Veterans Affairs Canada announced its
Even though our neighbors up North have a different approach, it doesn’t appear that the U.S. VA’s stance is shifting any time soon.
Earlier this year, the VA
After developing health issues, Alex eventually recovered from his alcoholism by embracing cannabis. Even though he lives in California, Alex admitted he’s turned to the illicit market to obtain the quantity of cannabis he needs to function at an affordable price.
“The legal market is not targeting veterans, especially disabled veterans who live on fixed incomes,” said Dale Schafer, a Vietnam-era Navy vet who spent five years in federal prison for growing medical cannabis at home and currently serves as legal counsel for the Weed for Warriors Project (WFWP). “It’s targeting people with a lot more disposable income.”
WFWP President Sean Kiernan told Politico that a 100 percent-disabled veteran receives around $3,000 a month in VA disability payments, and if that veteran goes to a legal dispensary, they are spending about $50 daily to medicate. This would ultimately eat up about 50 percent of their disability.
How Does Cannabis Benefit Veterans?
Despite the VA messaging on medicinal cannabis for veterans, PTSD is already a qualifying condition for medicinal cannabis in many states. And research has affirmed that cannabis can indeed help with symptoms of PTSD.
Those exposed to THC ultimately had lowered threat-related amygdala activity, in all three groups, suggesting that THC reduced fear and anxiety in situations designed to trigger fear in those with and without PTSD.
While many veterans need relief from PTSD, it’s worth noting that cannabis has been shown to aid in
Ultimately, more research is needed across the board, though myriad anecdotal evidence on behalf of veterans has shown that cannabis can indeed be a safe and effective alternative to treat a number of symptoms.
How Can We Support Veterans’ Access to Cannabis?
The rigid stance of the VA is a bit disheartening, but that’s not to say we are powerless by any means. Just like the broader shift around cannabis in North America, it’s important to look toward and elevate activists who are on the ground, doing the work and pushing for policy improvements if we actually want to see substantial change.
Aforementioned California-based group
The VCP is currently
This is just a small sampling of the many advocacy groups working for better medicinal cannabis access among veterans. While these groups often have a broader focus, there are also plenty of locally-focused groups accessible through a quick Google search. Try “your state” in quotes, to ensure results all include your state, and “veterans cannabis group.” Beyond advocacy groups, it’s also an easy way to find veteran-owned canna-businesses and other local resources to support veterans in your area.
Whether it’s sharing with friends, volunteering, donating or simply learning more about the issues and how to elevate these conversations to others, there is strength in numbers, and we won’t see policy reform benefiting vets by remaining passive.
High There wishes a Happy Veterans Day to our treasured vets who have served throughout the years. While we’re still in the infancy of cannabis reform as a whole, let’s ensure no one is left behind as we collectively trek forward.