Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida emphasized the importance of conducting clinical trials on medical marijuana at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on May 21, 2019, a topic on which he has often focused.
He also criticized the Catch-22 of VA cannabis research, arguing that while the department is able to conduct clinical trials on marijuana, it doesn't effectively publicize those studies, leaving veterans who might be interested in participating in the dark.
Gaetz started by asking whether Navy Capt. Mike Colston, M.D., Director of Mental Health Policy and Oversight at the Department of Defense, felt that giving veterans access to medical cannabis could reduce suicides.
Colston said “there's far more research to be done” and that there's “insufficient evidence for or against that position.”
Gaetz cited research showing reductions in opioid use in states that have loosened cannabis laws, and he questioned whether “the current offramp for opioid addiction,” which typically involves prescribing long-term opioids that are less potent and less prone to abuse, “is a more effective offramp than medical cannabis.”
“I just think those are the three evidence-based therapies right now that meet the medical bar,” Colston said, referring to bupenehprine, methadone, and naltrexone. “Obviously, more research can change that.”
That prompted Gaetz to expand on VA policy as it pertains to medical cannabis. He asked for confirmation that the department's doctors cannot currently recommend marijuana to veterans in states where it's legal.
They can't do that because “there's a federal law against it right now,” claimed Keita Franklin, National Director of Suicide Prevention at the VA,. (This has been a point of contention for legalization advocates, who argue that only the VA's own internal administrative policies, and not an overarching federal law, blocks such recommendations.)
But VA officials can conduct clinical trials on marijuana, Franklin said.
“We have two ongoing research studies going on right now in this space,” she said. “I think we are open to research, yes.”
The congressman wanted to know if the VA publishes information about these studies and where to find it. The VA official wasn't sure — and that was exactly Gaetz's point.
“I don't think anyone is clear, which is the source of my frustration because I think that there are a lot of these clinical trials that are seeking veterans,” he said. “The VA, due to a lack of clarity, won't publicize that information or make it available, and then we're unable to do the research that Capt. Colston says is necessary to advance additional options for veterans trying to get off opioids and to stop them from killing themselves.”
“The VA, due to a lack of clarity, won't publicize that information or make it available, and then we're unable to do the research that Capt. Colston says is necessary to advance additional options for veterans trying to get off opioids and to stop them from killing themselves.”
Lawmakers have introduced legislation this session that would allow VA doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations and require the department to conduct clinical trials on the plant's potential therapeutic benefits for veterans, among other cannabis and veterans-related bills.
But if the VA is mandated to research the plant, Gaetz wants the department to better publicize the studies so that would-be participants actually know about them.But if the VA is mandated to research the plant, Gaetz wants the department to better publicize the studies so that would-be participants actually know about them. Click To Tweet
This article was republished from Marijuana Moment under a content syndication agreement. Read the original article here.
Feature image: Medical marijuana availability for U.S. veterans is caught in a federal and state law Catch-22. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doesn't allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana in states where it's legal. Furthermore, the VA can conduct clinical trials on medical marijuana, but cannot publicize participation in those studies. (Weedmaps file photo)