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“Frustrated” U.S. Veterans Want VA to Allow Research on Medical Marijuana

“Frustrated” U.S. Veterans Want VA to Allow Research on Medical Marijuana

Dina Al-Shibeeb
U.S. Marines carry a comrade wounded by an improvised explosive device to a waiting medevac helicopter, near the town of Marjah in Helmand Province.

U.S. veterans are speaking up, they want Veterans Affairs (VA) to study and research medical marijuana.

In early January hopes were high after the Veteran Affairs (VA) Department permitted doctors to talk to veterans about marijuana without getting into hot water. But in mid-January hopes were dashed when the VA said it won’t be researching medical marijuana, which is considered to be an alternative treatment especially for veterans suffering from PTSD.  

Paul Rieckhoff, an Iraq War veteran and founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), told the San Francisco-based Healthline that it’s a “mistake” for the VA not to pursue research on medical marijuana.

“IAVA members have overwhelmingly supported medical marijuana, as well as recreational marijuana, for many years,” Rieckhoff, who has served as an Army first lieutenant and infantry rifle platoon leader in Iraq, said. 

Rieckhoff said IAVA veterans have been “extremely vocal in communicating the benefits for pain relief they’ve experienced, and in their frustration with VA’s resistance to researching marijuana.”

veterans 1024x768 - “Frustrated” U.S. Veterans Want VA to Allow Research on Medical Marijuana
US veterans dump hundreds of empty pill bottles at the White House to demand access to medical marijuana. (File image via The Washington Post)

He said veterans already see evidence of medical marijuana “benefits firsthand.”

He added:

“It is clear that more needs to be understood about the potential benefits of medical marijuana to treat a variety of symptoms and illnesses impacting veterans.”

He said his organization has “long advocated VA and Congress to fund research to assess the effectiveness of medical marijuana to treat veterans’ common injuries and to relieve pain.”

One veteran, Ricardo Pereyda suffered both post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) following his return from Iraq in 2005. His ailments bogged him down with intense physical pain, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and anger issues.

Pereyda was declared by the VA as 100 percent disabled.

All the pharmaceutical medications given to him did not help. It was marijuana, which truly came to his aid. 

“The only thing that’s really helped me with all these symptoms is cannabis [marijuana],” Pereyda said.

“The pain, anger, mood swings, appetite, my sleep, all have been addressed by this one plant. I got my life back.”

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