- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The nation’s largest veterans’ group has requested a meeting at the White House to discuss rescheduling marijuana’s status as a federally controlled substance so medical researchers may legally study its potential to help vets suffering from conditions including traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

American Legion is looking for face time with the Trump administration “as we seek support from the president to clear the way for clinical research in the cutting edge areas of cannabinoid receptor research,” the organization wrote in a letter sent to the White House last month and recently shared with the media.

“It’s time the federal government took action to remove barriers to scientific research on this very important subject,” Joe Plenzler, American Legion director of media relations, told The Denver Post’s Cannabist Monday.

While 29 states and counting have passed laws letting doctors recommend weed to patients diagnosed with certain conditions, marijuana remains federally listed as a Schedule 1 substance defined as having no “currently accepted medical use” on par with heroin, LSD and ecstasy.

Rescheduling cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act would remove restrictions limiting federally-funded researchers from studying its possible benefits and potentially reverse the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ existing anti-pot stance, according to the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans’ group at about 2.4 million members.

“We are not asking for it to be legalized,” Louis Celli, its national director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation, told Politico. “There is overwhelming evidence that it has been beneficial for some vets. The difference is that it is not founded in federal research because it has been illegal.”

About 6.8 percent of American adults suffer from PTSD at some point during their life, according to a the U.S. National Comorbidity Survey. But for veterans, however, the proportion of individuals with PTSD differs substantially: previous studies have suggested about 30 percent of Vietnam veterans, 12 percent of Gulf War veterans and 14 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan vets suffer from PTSD, as indicated on the VA’s own website.

A majority of the 29 states with medical marijuana laws, meanwhile, list PTSD as a qualifying condition.

“Even if a state in which a provider practices has a legalized medical marijuana program, federal law prohibits Department of Veterans Affairs physicians from prescribing medical marijuana and from completing forms/paperwork necessary for patients to enroll in State medical marijuana programs,” the VA told Politico on Friday.

“VA will not provide for use or conduct research with illegal substances regardless of state laws,” the department said.

American Legion made a similar pitch for legal marijuana in August before Congress, and in December it outlined its concerns with President Trump’s transition team.

Mr. Trump previously said states should decide their own related laws, but anti-marijuana comments expressed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in recent months have cast doubts over the future of medical programs already in place.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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