We’ve written extensively at Nine Line News about the tragic numbers of losses that Veterans have taken after separation. Almost 22 veterans a day commit suicide on average, something that has begun to chill America to its core, but not soon enough. Now, it isn’t our objective to fall on one side or another of the debates going on in this country, but one thing’s for certain: if there is something, anything really, that can help Veterans improve their quality of life, it ought to be researched to the fullest extent possible — screw the politics.

But this, sadly, isn’t happening.


The Marijuana Divide

In the US, among older Americans (65 years of age and over), marijuana is seen as something which should remain illegal. This has historically been the case, causing it to be a Schedule I drug, like heroin. Schedule I means that the drug in question has no legitimate medical purpose. But younger Americans, on the whole, have a completely different perspective on it, seeing it more like alcohol or cigarettes — but not as harmful as either.


Congress’ Omission

Recently, a funding bill passed to keep the lights on until 9 December. Normally, this would be celebrated as an attempt to relieve some of the political pressure surrounding an already-contentious election. But there was an amendment which both houses of Congress had approved that never made it into the final bill for the President’s signature — the amendment was absent. And no one is really claiming responsibility here.


The Bill’s Scope

It’s important to point out here that this bill did nothing to provide medical cannabis to veterans directly, it simply would have allowed for VA doctors to sign the state forms recommending that as a course of treatment only in specific states where cannabis is legal for medicinal purposes.

It’s also important to note that, until recently, it was illegal for a VA doctor to even discuss the use of medical cannabis as a treatment for anything.


What’s the Cost?

Veterans are dying from opioid abuse at a rate twice that of the national average, according the VA itself. Opioid abuse is a national epidemic that has also been causing a disproportionate amount of stress and strain on an already-tapped community that has poverty rates, alcohol and drug abuse rates, and suicide rates among others.

However, there are instances in which marijuana has proven problematic for people suffering with bipolar disorder and other mental health issues. As such, there are major institutions that are conducting trials now in order to assess the effectiveness of marijuana in the treatment of PTSD. It’s important to note about this that Colorado is currently conducting two large-scale studies as its own health board will not add PTSD to the list of accepted conditions that qualify for medical treatment with cannabis, citing a lack of peer-reviewed research on the topic.

But, until further action comes from Congress, the VA will be yet another roadblock for Veterans seeking treatment for their issues. On the one hand, it’s a legitimate point that any entity which derives funds from the federal government should be required to abide by its laws. But in an era where legal backlog and bottlenecks are contributing to the death and suicide rate, it’s essential that we try anything that even might make a difference.

Whatever your stance on this issue is, you can help raise awareness of the issue of veteran suicide with our line of 22 a day shirts and hoodies.