February 14, 2023


Legislation Searches To Find Alternatives For Dangerous Opioids Harming Veteran Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representatives Lou Correa (CA-46) and Jack Bergman (MI-01) introduced bipartisan legislation today that pushes the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct research on the health effects of medicinal cannabis for veterans experiencing chronic pain and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

“With the opioid crisis raging across America, it is imperative to the health and safety of our veterans that we find alternative treatments for chronic pain and service-related injuries,” said Rep. Correa. “Throughout my district, I consistently meet veterans who depend on cannabis to manage their pain. It’s past time the VA did a formal study and began recognizing that cannabis can play a role in our veterans’ healthcare. I am honored to have Congressman Bergman, Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jon Tester, and Senator Dan Sullivan join me in taking action to help veterans in need of medical cannabis and opioid alternatives.”

“I’m proud to help introduce this bipartisan legislation to facilitate VA research for medicinal cannabis,” said Rep. Bergman. “This will allow us to explore treatments for chronic pain and other ailments that our Veterans face without the need for opiates. It will also ensure the medical safety of our Veterans, providing secure pathways to pain alleviation instead of driving many to self-mediate where marijuana has been legalized.”

Background: The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act authorizes VA to implement a comprehensive research plan, including a series of clinical trials that assess the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain and/or PTSD. It also expands cannabis research into other factors related to veterans’ health, such as improvements to mood and/or social functioning, impacts on other substance use, and changes to overall quality of life. It additionally requires the clinical trials examine the effects of different forms, potencies, and methods of cannabis administration while ensuring veterans’ health and safety is put first and foremost throughout the research. 

This announcement follows the introduction of a companion piece of legislation in the United States Senate, led by U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska).

Numerous Veterans Service Organizations have applauded this bipartisan effort to explore the health effect of medicinal cannabis for veterans:

“The VFW supports the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2023,” said Pat Murray, Director, National Legislative Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). “VFW members tell us that medicinal cannabis has helped them cope with chronic pain and other service-connected health conditions. They cannot receive these services at VA because of VA’s bureaucratic hurdles. VA uses evidence-based clinical guidelines to manage other pharmacological treatments of post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, and substance use disorder because medical trials have found them effective. VA must expand research on the efficacy of non-traditional medical therapies, such as medicinal cannabis and other holistic approaches.”

“DAV has long been a strong supporter of VA research on common conditions related to military service and effective treatments to help veterans recover, rehabilitate and improve the overall quality of their lives,” said Naomi M. Mathis, Associate National Legislative Director of Disabled American Veterans (DAV). “It’s our nation’s responsibility, however, to ensure that any treatment for veterans with PTSD or chronic pain stemming from their service-related injuries is both safe and effective. As such, DAV is proud to support the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2023 and applauds Rep. Correa for his forward-thinking leadership in introducing this important legislation.”

“Since 2017, IAVA has made it one of our top priorities to empower veterans who are calling for the medicinal use of cannabis,” said Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). “Eighty-eight percent of IAVA members support the research of cannabis for medicinal purposes and veterans consistently and passionately have communicated that cannabis offers effective help in tackling some of the most pressing injuries we face when returning from war. We thank Reps. Lou Correa and Jack Bergman for reintroducing the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act in order to increase that research and reduce the stigma at VA.”