Justice

Veterans Group Calls on Trump To Reschedule Marijuana

On Saturday, the largest veterans organization in the U.S. called for the Trump administration to loosen restrictions on federal marijuana laws.

The American Legion, a conservative-leaning organization formed in the wake of World War I that represents 2.4 million veterans, argued that current federal law has impeded research into marijuana's therapeutic benefits for individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Currently, federal law classifies cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug which is the strictest classification reserved for addictive substances. This places it in the same category as heroin under the Controlled Substances Act and labels it as having no known medical value, which serves as a barrier to further studies. The American Legion is pushing for rescheduling, which wouldn't legalize the plant but could give scientists more research opportunities.

"We are not asking for it to be legalized," Louis Celli, national director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation at American Legion, 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."

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The organization has requested a meeting with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who serves as a senior advisor in the White House, in order to solicit "support from the president to clear the way for clinical research in the cutting edge areas of cannabinoid receptor research," according to Politico.

Though preliminary studies and anecdotal evidence have indicated that cannabis can effectively treat symptoms of PTSD such as insomnia, night terrors, and anxiety, those studies have been conducted by either independent or foreign research institutions, which means their findings aren't officially recognized by the federal government.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) approved the first study on how cannabis affects PTSD last year, but the research is still in its early phase.

Advocates have called the DEA's approval a step in the right direction, but the fact remains that researchers around the country face significant barriers when it comes to obtaining clearance and materials for cannabis studies from the federal government. 

Veterans are more likely than the general public to develop PTSD, and experts have linked the psychological condition to the disturbing rate of veteran suicides in the country, which claims the lives of 20 veterans a day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

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During the presidential campaign, President Trump told Fox News that he supports medical marijuana laws "100 percent," and added that he knows "people that have serious problems and they did that [used medical cannabis]" and that "it really does help them."

But in the months since taking office, Trump has been silent on the issue while his attorney general, vocal legalization opponent Jeff Sessions, has stoked fears among reform advocates by hinting at federal actions against states which have legalized marijuana.