National PTSD Awareness Month provides an opportunity to redouble industry efforts to help veterans gain access to needed treatment
Despite the progress made nationwide on the advancement of cannabis as a treatment for pain, anxiety and depression, thousands of U.S. Veterans are still forced to navigate uncharted waters when wanting to supplement or replace their prescription treatment regimen with cannabis.
More than two decades after the first state fully legalized medicinal cannabis, we are still failing miserably to provide easier access to cannabis medicine for veterans who seek it out. As a result, veterans are forced to fend for themselves to find information on the benefits and uses of medical cannabis. Very often, they are making these life-altering decisions while managing debilitating pain and anxiety, as well as carefully managing prescriptions of potentially addictive opioids. In addition, uncertainty over the status of their veterans benefits and any potential retribution for cannabis use continues to create concern among the veteran community, despite VA reassurances that there will be no repercussions. For veterans accessing health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs health system, obtaining and using medical cannabis can be a real hassle. Even in states where cannabis is fully legal, VA health care professionals are forbidden from prescribing medical cannabis for veterans. And it has only been within the past several years that VA doctors were even allowed to discuss medical cannabis use when their patients request information. Veterans who desire professional medical advice on cannabis use must seek it outside the VA system, which can be a huge financial burden, particularly for those veterans currently struggling with a disability due to their military service.
Clearly, we are failing our veterans. Again. Here’s why it matters so much:
Among the veterans community, there is widespread support for cannabis reform. According to the Veterans Cannabis Project, 83% of U.S. veterans support medical cannabis treatment and an American Foreign Legion survey found that 92% of veterans support medical marijuana research. Major veterans groups, including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America have all advocated for cannabis reform for years. In addition, grassroots organizations like the Veterans Cannabis Project, Mattersville and Balanced Veterans work directly with veterans to provide information and assistance to those investigating cannabis treatment options.
Those of us in the cannabis industry also have an important role to play, and while many offer vocal support on this issue there is so much more we can do. As we close out National PTSD Awareness Month this June, our industry must heed a call to action to step up efforts to help our veterans gain access to the cannabis products and information they need to help them thrive and indeed in some cases, survive.
According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), veterans consume cannabis at rates far higher than the general population, and many report using it for medical purposes. With this knowledge in hand, it is unconscionable for us to stand idly by while those who voluntarily sacrificed their health and well being for our greater good struggle to gain safe access to cannabis medicine. We don’t have to wait for federal legalization to provide assistance to veterans who are simply seeking relief from their service-related ailments. The evidence is solid and the need is great. The time for the cannabis industry to help Veterans is now.
Dana E. Shoched is the president and chief executive officer of O2VAPE, a leading vaping product manufacturer for consumers and wholesalers. Creators of the patented Flip Ultra pen, O2VAPE is committed to providing leading-edge technology for recreational and medicinal cannabis consumers and patients. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Shoched founded O2VAPE out of her garage in 2012 and has guided the company to phenomenal growth, and now serving customers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Prior to creating O2VAPE, Shoched held numerous roles in the pharmaceutical industry, healthcare and sales in the private sector. Shoched is widely recognized as a pioneer for woman-owned businesses in the cannabis industry. She can be reached at [email protected].
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