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Military Vets in a Catch-22 Over Marijuana Use and Employment

Military Vets in a Catch-22 Over Marijuana Use and Employment

Veterans who have legally obtained medical marijuana prescriptions to deal with chronic pain and other ailments related to military service face a real quandary when it comes to seeking employment.  No one will hire them.

U.S. veterans who use medical marijuana  say they face losing job training or other benefits even though it’s legal in the states where they live.

As former service members find themselves ensnared between harsh federal drug laws and the state-based push for legalization, access to medical marijuana has quickly risen to the top of the veterans advocacy world. The groups are hoping to address chronic pain, depression and suicide rife in the veteran community. Both the American Legion, the country’s largest vet organization, and Veterans of Foreign Wars, have made researching the plant’s medicinal value a top legislative priority.

“Marijuana is illegal under federal law, and until federal law changes, VA is not able to prescribe it,” a VA spokesperson said. The agency added that the law also restricts cannabis research by requiring cooperation with a range of federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency, Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. As of April 2019, only eight researchers nationwide have received federally-approved marijuana this year, NIDA has said.

That’s the problem.  State laws allow marijuana use for medical purposes but the VA, a federal agency, has to follow federal law which classifies it as an illegal drug.  Many vets are afraid to go to the VA for treatment or other services in case their marijuana use is flagged.  Making matters worse, employment screening which includes drug testing will pick up the marijuana use and the vet will not be offered a job.

The problem is acute in the military but it’s not the only place where the problem is impacting people.  Just recently, retired NFL player Chris Long said he’d used marijuana for years as a player in order to deal with the pain of playing pro football.  Long believes the drug is a safer alternative to booze or pills which many players resort to in order to deal with the chronic pain they face.

This is a huge problem and the federal and state governments need to get on the same page and quickly.  Too many good people, especially our veterans, are caught in an impossible Catch-22 where they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.  Our warrior and heroes deserve much better.

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