As a retired Navy SEAL, I’ve seen firsthand the toll war takes on America’s veterans and their families. Our men and women in uniform — and the families who support them — make incredible sacrifices to protect our freedom and way of life. In return, we should make the best possible health care options available to our veterans who need it — including access to legal cannabis.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs more than 20% of the 2.7 million Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer from either depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. These and other former service members are often prescribed addictive, opiate-based drugs to treat their conditions, then end up worse. Too many of our veterans who fought the war on terrorism are facing their own terrors now due to their service to America.
Cannabis, however, has been proven to help benefit veterans struggling with pain, insomnia, depression, anxiety, traumatic brain injury and PTSD. It does not carry the harmful side effects of dangerous and addictive opiates. On the contrary, cannabis is a safe personal health management option — and it works. Statistics have shown that legal cannabis has drastically reduced opiate use in areas where is has become available.
The problem is that because cannabis is a controlled substance under federal law, veterans who live in a state that has legalized cannabis, either medically or for adult-use generally, and choose to use it are jeopardizing the full range of federal benefits available to them, even in legal states. This includes everything from health care to mortgages. In one instance, a disabled veteran living in Massachusetts – a state that has legalized adult-use cannabis – was denied a VA mortgage simply because he was an assistant manager of a licensed cannabis store. That’s not only unfair and ridiculous, it’s also unpatriotic and just plain wrong.
Here’s the deal: More than 100 million Americans live in a state with legalized adult-use cannabis. Nineteen states have legalized cannabis for adult use, and 37 states have legalized medical cannabis. Adult use was on the ballot in five more states this year. Cannabis legalization is here to stay and will only continue to grow. This industry will provide a great deal of new commerce and jobs for the American people.
The federal government, however, continues to screw this up and treat cannabis like heroin, even though we can all see the benefits of legal cannabis. It’s time for Congress to do the right thing and change federal cannabis law and institute essential safeguards to prevent youth access and driving under the influence. This will require more than administrative action; we need our Congress to step in and step up.
Doing this will support investment in much-needed research into the medical benefits of cannabis and will affirm the overwhelming support for legalization among the American people. Most importantly to myself and other members of the veteran community, it will help millions of American veterans and their families get access to the medical options they desperately need.
Adam “Dobby” Dobbins, a medically retired Navy SEAL, is the CEO of Grow Depot in Virginia Beach, Va.