On November 3 inside the Cannon Office building on Capitol Hill, members of the American Legion along with a bipartisan group of congressmen – two representing the House Committee on Veterans Affairs – held a press conference to talk about the results of the Legion’s nationwide phone survey of veterans about medical cannabis use and research.
Standing in the meeting room with Minnesota Democratic Congressman Tim Walz, the ranking member of the House committee, and Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, who sponsored a bill (HR 2020) to reschedule marijuana to Schedule 3, was Oregon Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer, one of the long-time supporters of legalizing cannabis throwing his support behind this group. Also speaking to the group was California Democratic Congresswoman Julia Brownley, ranking member of the Subcommittee on Health, and California Democratic Congressman Mike Takano, vice ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.
It was, once again, a demonstration that there is more and more legislator support growing among a more powerful bipartisan Congressional nucleus to legalize marijuana and end prohibition.
Louis Celli, the American Legion national director of Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, read off some of the findings of the survey: 82 percent of the 1,360 respondents supported legalizing medical cannabis; one in five veterans use marijuana for physical or medical condition; 60 percent of respondents do not live in a state where medical cannabis is legal.
“I can tell you that the American Legion joining the growing caucus of people that want to see this reform to reschedule cannabis is very significant,” Gaetz said. He also took the opportunity to comment on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s recent remarks about the opioid commission report that was recently released. “I want to condemn in the strongest possible terms the outrageous statements made by Governor Chris Cristie regarding medical cannabis,” he said. “It is short-sighted, it is inaccurate and it’s indefensible to suggest the proliferation of medical cannabis that is saving lives and improving the quality of living for people is somehow analgous to the plague of the opioid crisis,” he said. “The federal government has lied to the American people for a generation about cannabis in asserting its medical value. There are too many of my fellow Republicans acting like ostriches with their heads in the sand on this issue.”
Walz, reminding the audience that he represents the state that is the headquarters for the Mayo Clinic, one of the oldest and most respected research clinics in the world, says that all he and other congressmen are asking for is simple research and a systematic pathway to rescheduling cannabis. “This is truly non-partisan,” he said. “We are way past that. We are not attempting to pick a fight.”
“I am the traditional button-up congressman and I am going to fight like hell for this issue because it’s right,” Walz told CBE. “I think that this counter-intuitiveness shakes people up.”
He said that he is going to go back to the governor of Minnesota, and suggest the state pursue legalization of recreational. “We are going to monitor. We are going to tax it. We are going to do it right,” he told CBE. “Because I am sick of this crap. It’s ruining lives, it’s locking people up. I am like everyone else. I am on an evolution on this. And I have just come to the point right now where this is insanity here, what we are dealing with.”
Two warfighters from Afghanistan talked about their experiences in that war, and what they had to endure once they got home. Boone Cutler, who spent 24 months at Walter Reed upon his return, talked about the “combat cocktail” that returning vets were given that turned them into zombies. “I came from the ‘Just Say No’ generation, so I wasn’t going to smoke weed and be a stoner,” he said. “But I got to the point where I put a gun to my head, and was wondering where my self-preservation instinct went. I just lost that desire for self-preservation while on those drugs.” He said that when he finally began smoking cannabis, he slept for “five hours for the first time in five years.”