The suicide rate is 1.5 times higher for veterans than non-veteran adults. Data from the US Department of Veterans Affairs shows, there were more than 6,000 veteran suicides each year from 2008 to 2016.
NEXSTAR (WASHINGTON D.C.)– In Washington, a group of experts is getting together to find out how cannabis could help lower veteran suicide rates. But other groups say the science to back that up just isn’t there.
Air Force veteran Derek Blumke came to Capitol Hill to share his battle with prescription drugs.
The Co-founder and former President of Student Veterans of America says, “These drugs can cause suicidal thoughts and ideation.”
He says his doctors prescribed antidepressants and antianxiety medications, which he says made his recovery even harder.
Blumke was one of a panel urging lawmakers to approve alternative options for treatment. Others on the panel pointed to medical cannabis as the solution.
But not everyone can use it, because of the conflict between state and federal laws. Florida Congressman Charlie Crist agrees that’s a problem.
The Democratic US Representative explains, “You know we have 33 states in America now that have legalized medical marijuana but at the federal level that still isn’t recognized. And so that caused a conflict obviously.”
Veterans and other government employees who try cannabis for treatment could be fired from their federal jobs.
Crist introduced the “Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act” to prevent that from happening.” But Some want more research before giving a green light.
Will Jones with Smart Approaches to Marijuana shares, “We have to be very careful when there is an industry whose profit comes from more use of this product.”
Jones says there is no major medical association recommending marijuana for treatment of depression, anxiety or PTSD, and he says a blanket approach to medical cannabis laws isn’t safe.
Jones adds, “That’s extremely irresponsible for public health and that is a disservice to those that have served our country.”
This past June, Congressman Crist was able to secure a provision in the annual Financial Services funding bill that preserves federal employment opportunities for veterans and others using medical marijuana.
This language essentially accompanies the budget that the House approved which directs how funds will be spent. Congress has to approve the spending bill before September 30th.