Veteran Advocates Present Cannabis Research On Beacon Hill

Significant decreases reported in psychological symptoms and alcohol, opioid, and tobacco use

It is reassuring that several media outlets covered today’s “advocacy hour” on Beacon Hill, in which veterans and advocates for service members educated lawmakers and the press about cannabis specifically in regards to relevant bills under current consideration

The front leading the charge was organized by veteran Stephen Mandile, with support from Dr. Marion McNabb presenting data from the Cannabis Center Of Excellence led research studies. The event set out to explain how “medical cannabis has been helping countless veterans in Massachusetts and across the nation replace or reduce the amount of some medications,” plus to say “this is a form of harm-reduction for people in need of pain relief.”

In support of An Act further defining eligibility for medical use marijuana, which would expand access for veterans and is under consideration by the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy, advocates presented findings from two studies including one from 2019 that the CCOE did with Stephen Mandile, a longtime pro-cannabis voice who currently serves as a selectman in Uxbridge. The study, which included 510 veteran participants (35% of whom reported living in the Bay State), was recently approved by the UMass Dartmouth IRB and will be released later this month. Key findings include:

  • Primary health conditions reported by veterans: 38% chronic pain, 26% PTSD, 9% anxiety
  • 52% of sample of veterans reported they used medical cannabis multiple times a day
  • Veterans in the sample reported using the following types of medications: 45% over-the-counter medications; 33% antidepressant, 25% anti-inflammatory, and 19% muscle relaxants; 13% opioids
  • Of those who sought to reduce medication use with cannabis: 30% report actively using cannabis to replace over the counter medications, 25% antidepressants, 17% anti-inflammatories, and 17% reducing opioids
  • 91% of the sample reported that medical cannabis increases their quality of life
  • Among veteran respondents: 80% report decreased psychological symptoms, 73% reduced physical symptoms, 46% decreased alcohol use, 45% decreased medication use, 21% decreased opioid use, and 24% decreased tobacco use
  • Largest barriers to access reported include the cost to get a medical card annually and cost to afford a monthly supply of cannabis
  • Veterans feel comfortable disclosing to their VA Provider that they use cannabis; but are largely unaware of if the VA provider accepts its use

“This legislation is key to help streamline the process for veterans to obtain a medical cannabis card by allowing veterans to submit their Veterans Administration (VA) ‘Blue Button Report Problem List’ indicating an existing debilitating medical condition to the commission,” Rep. Michael Soter, one of the sponsors of An Act further defining eligibility for medical use marijuana, said ahead of today’s event. “It is our hope that this educational program will help show our colleagues, staff, and the public at large the benefits that medical cannabis can provide to the veterans that have given so much to our country.”

Mandile added, “The goal of H.119/S.50 is to help heal our nation’s wounded with access to a drug legal in Massachusetts, being used as a form of harm reduction by thousands of veterans in Massachusetts, with as few barriers as possible while we work on policy ending prohibition at the US Department of Veterans Affairs and allowing access to veterans nationwide.”