South Coast Today: Backers of veterans marijuana survey hope to change policy

4 May 2019 5:40 PM | Marion (Administrator)

South Coast Today

BACKERS OF VETERANS MARIJUANA SURVEY HOPE TO CHANGE POLICY

March 3, 2019 

DARTMOUTH - Veterans Affairs health care providers cannot legally recommend medical marijuana to their patients because the drug is classified federally as a Schedule One Controlled Substance, according to their website. Organizations in Massachusetts are working to change that with a study that explains how and why veterans use the drug to deal with things like chronic pain and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

UMass Dartmouth, Cannabis Community Care and Research Network and Veterans Alternative Healing Inc. launched an online survey in March to collect data for the study.

The anonymous survey is available for veterans nationally, but since the organizations behind it are all based in Massachusetts, the CEO of Worcester-based C3RN Dr. Marion McNabb said she expects a good percentage of the respondents will be from the Bay State.

McNabb wants to use the data, she said, to change state policies to make medical cannabis more accessible to veterans, creating a model to do the same on the federal level.

Current barriers to veterans’ medical marijuana use stem from the federal policy barring the VA from recommending or prescribing the drug. If a veteran wants to use marijuana they have to either go outside the VA to get a medical marijuana card, which can cost up to $350 a year with the necessary referral, or buy recreational marijuana if that is an option in their state, according to C3RN and Veteran’s Alternative Healing.

But, recreational marijuana has its limits, there is a “100 milligrams edible limit for adults per transaction for recreational use as opposed to 283 ½ grams every sixty days for medical use,” said Ann Brum of Joint Venture & Co, another partner in the study. In both cases veterans are responsible for covering their own costs.

That is one of the main things C3RN and Veterans Alternative Healing are trying to change.

“We think every veteran should have free access to medical cannabis just as a right for their service,” said McNabb.

Stephen Mandile, founder of Veterans Alternative Healing, is an Iraq veteran and approached C3RN about doing the study when, he said, he realized he needed data to back up the stories veterans told him about using marijuana to get over their opioid addictions and for mental health issues.

“We have to put numbers to these stories,” said Mandile. “I thought it would be the best way to change policies.”

The numbers are already coming in. On April 18, the groups released a report with their initial findings. According to that report, of the 138 veterans who completed the survey, 67 percent reported they use medical marijuana and 57 percent report using marijuana recreationally.

Of the veterans that use medical marijuana, 34 percent use it to manage chronic pain, 25 percent for PTSD, and 12 percent for depression. 67 percent of those that use it also reported using medical marijuana to reduce over the counter or prescription medication use.

UMass Dartmouth is involved in the study not just to use these numbers to change policies, but to study one of the fastest growing industries in the nation, said Dr. Stephen White, a professor of marketing and international business.

UMD partnered with C3RN last year to perform a broader open cannabis consumer and patient research study.

Bask, a medical marijuana dispensary in Fairhaven and a partner is the study, is offering veterans who take the survey discounts on their products, according to CEO Chapman Dickerson.

The data from the study will be shared with Dickerson and he said he hopes to use it to make products that are more tailored to veterans needs.

The study will continue for at least the next year, but both C3RN and UMass Dartmouth said they would continue their research as long as there is interest. They will be sharing their data, as it comes in, at various events across the state, including one in the SouthCoast in October.

Veterans who are interested in taking the study can find it here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/C3RN_VAH

Original Article Link: https://www.southcoasttoday.com/news/20190503/backers-of-veterans-marijuana-survey-hope-to-change-policy

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