Federal Commission Recommends Marijuana Research for Veterans

marijuana research for veterans

COVER Commission Recommends Marijuana & Psychedelic Research for PTSD Treatment

The COVER (Creating Options for Veterans Expedited Recover) Commission, which is a federal commission that evaluates mental health treatment options for veterans within the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), released a report in January of this year recommending the VA expand its mental health research for veterans. The report notes that cannabis and psychedelic drugs used as treatment for PTSD should be further investigated. Possibly due to COVID-19 and other current issues in the media, this report has not gathered much attention.

The COVER commission conducted their review by holding public meetings, to include meetings with organizations and clinicians, visiting VA facilities, and holding listening sessions and focus groups for veterans. Many veterans already regularly use marijuana, especially with select states allowing for legal consumption. According to the National Center for PTSD at the VA, the number of veterans with PTSD who use cannabis increased from 13% in 2002, to 22.7% in 2014. Even so, both psychedelic drugs and cannabis are Schedule 1 under the Controlled Substances Act, which prevents the VA from conducting research or clinical trials. The COVER commission recommended that the VA should conduct research to determine the potential harm and benefits these drugs may have on veterans, as well as provide up-to-date information to physicians regarding medical cannabis and psychedelic drugs.

The commission noted that private universities and research institutes are conducting research with psychedelics, specifically psilocybin and MDMA, and marijuana for the treatment of PTSD. The first clinical trial researching marijuana use in veterans with PTSD was completed after ten years in early 2019. The trial was conducted by MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), and took place at Scottsdale Research Institute.

The commission recommended that the National Institute on Drug Abuse develop marijuana strains that contain THC levels that more closely resemble the THC levels present in medical cannabis already being used by patients and veterans. Previous research has shown that the marijuana supplied by the University of Mississippi (funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse or NIH/NIDA), which is the only federally approved manufacturer of marijuana since the 1950s, is more closely related to hemp. Scottsdale Research Institute has filed a law suit against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in order to become a second location where federal marijuana can be produced, with the claim that the marijuana manufactured by the University of Mississippi is low quality.

The COVER commission’s recommendations are in line with the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act, which was introduced in January of 2019 by Congressman Lou Correa, D-CA, and Congressman Clay Higgins, R-LA. The act, approved by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, would require the VA to conduct research on medical marijuana. The act is still pending being brought to the House floor.

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Diandra is a military spouse affiliated with the North Carolina National Guard. She has focused her writing on science and medicine in the past, but recently has taken a deeper interest in military-focused topics. Her and her husband Nick currently reside outside of the Washington D.C. area.