Thirty US states and Washington DC have legalized cannabis for adult use, and the majority of Americans reportedly support legalizing cannabis nationwide. Despite all of this, 20 million American veterans are still blocked from receiving safe, legal, and affordable access to cannabis. Although doctors employed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs are permitted to discuss medical cannabis with their patients in states where the plant is already legal, VA docs aren’t currently able to prescribe cannabis—even in states like California and Colorado.United States Veterans are two times more likely to succumb to accidental overdose, and we’re losing more than 20 of them to suicide every day. But cannabis could help. According to a survey conducted by the American Legion back in 2017, 82 percent of all veterans and caregivers want to have cannabis available as a federally legal treatment, 92 percent support research into medical cannabis, and 20 percent of veterans report that they are already using cannabis to treat their medical or physical conditions.
As time, the American people, and veterans themselves continue to favor legalization, we’ll start to see more and more support for veterans’ right to non-opioid medication. In the meantime, here are just a few ways to help US veterans get access to cannabis.
Support cannabis organizations that support veterans
Whether you’re hoping to donate time, money, or social media exposure, there are an encouraging number of organizations that are solely dedicated to helping veterans get safe and legal access to cannabis. Here are our top picks:
Veterans Cannabis Project
Created by U.S. Navy Seal Nick Etten, the Veterans Cannabis Project (VCP) is exactly what it sounds like: an organization dedicated to improving veterans’ quality of life through safe and legal cannabis access. VCP empowers veterans to live healthy, fulfilling lives, while advocating on their behalf for unrestricted and supported access to medical cannabis through the VA. The folks over at VCP also believe that the cannabis industry is uniquely positioned to help unemployed veterans secure successful and fulfilling work.
Weed for Warriors Project
The Weed for Warriors Project provides veterans with safe and legal access to free cannabis. (Though proof of service and a current medical recommendation are required.) Weed for Warriors also provides veterans with information about medical cannabis and a safe place to fellowship with other veterans.
Founded in 2014 as Grow for Vets, Hero Grown is nationally recognized as one of the leading organizations fighting for veterans’ right to use cannabis. Hero Grown strives to raise awareness, advocate, and assist veterans, first responders and their families with the use of cannabis as a safe alternative to prescription drugs. Amazingly, Hero Grown has given away over two million dollars’ worth of cannabis products to veterans since its inception.
Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance
The Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance has been providing veterans with safe and legal access to high-quality, lab-tested cannabis since 2011. The organization also aims to be a community for veterans to reach out to one another and share their experiences. Additionally, SCVA advocates the health benefits of cannabis and focuses on how to better address issues of pharmaceutical dependence, such as depression, anxiety, anger, and PTSD.
Get involved in local cannabis reform
Even in states where cannabis is completely illegal—like Wisconsin, Georgia, and Missouri—more and more American cities are either reducing penalties for the possession of cannabis or decriminalizing cannabis possession entirely. In fact, more than 50 localities in a dozen states have passed municipal laws or resolutions relating to decriminalization, and it’s largely due to the determination of local advocates. If you want to help lead your town toward a more cannabis-friendly tomorrow but don’t know where to start, check out this article detailing six ways to advocate for a pro-cannabis local government.
Advocate for legalization in your state
If cannabis use is illegal in your state (or it’s only legal for medical sales), know that there are actions you can take that could potentially help rewrite your state’s cannabis laws. If you’re up for the challenge, check out this guide.
Support the American Legion
Over the past few years, the American Legion has been campaigning to help veterans gain access to medical cannabis. And thanks in no small part to the organization’s institutional voice, stellar reputation, and more than two million members, all the Legion’s hard work is paying off.
The Legion released their first medical cannabis-related resolution—which called for the removal of cannabis from Schedule I and advocated for reclassifying it as a drug with potential medical value—at their annual convention in August 2016. Later that same year, leaders from the organization met with Trump’s transition team, where they urged the Trump administration to reschedule cannabis for the sake of our veterans. And the Legion didn’t stop there.
As we mentioned earlier, the organization conducted their own nationwide cannabis survey of veterans and their caregivers in 2017. Also in 2017, the Legion (along with other veterans groups) pushed the Veterans Administration to issue a directive that allows VA doctors to discuss medical cannabis use with veterans in states where it’s legal. You can help the American Legion achieve even more cannabis victories for veterans by urging congress to prioritize medical cannabis research.
Vote for cannabis-friendly representatives
It’s important to know where your state representatives stand on legalizing the plant. Head over to NORML and check out their House of Representatives Scorecard to find out just how cannabis-friendly (or unfriendly) your state representatives are.