More than 80 percent of veterans nationwide favor legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana and would want to have it as a potential treatment option, according to a survey released Thursday by the American Legion.
Eighty-three percent of veteran households surveyed said the federal government should legalize medical cannabis, and 82 percent indicated that they would want to have medical cannabis as a legal treatment option.
In addition, 92 percent of veteran households support research into the efficacy of medical cannabis for mental and physical conditions and as a possible substitute for prescription opioids, the survey said.
The telephone survey was conducted for the two-million member Legion by Five Corners Strategies from Oct. 8 to Oct. 10 and had a plus or minus margin of error of 3.43 percent.
A memo from Five Corners Strategies on the survey said, "Support for medical cannabis and research on medical cannabis is high across veterans and caregivers, all age ranges, gender, political leanings and geography."
The survey showed that 88 percent of self-identified conservative respondents, 90 percent of self-identified liberals and 70 percent of self-identified independents supported federally legalized medical cannabis.
The survey was released at a Capitol Hill news conference attended by Reps. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota, ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee; Mark Takano, D-California; Julia Brownley, D-California; and Matt Gaetz, R-Florida.
At its national convention in Reno, Nevada, in August, the American Legion adopted a resolution urging the federal government to allow doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs to discuss and recommend medical marijuana in the 26 states where cannabis is legal.
The Legion previously had urged the removal of marijuana from the government's list of "Schedule 1" drugs. The list includes heroin, LSD and Ecstasy, which are deemed to have no medical use.
In May, VA Secretary David Shulkin said he was open to new evidence showing marijuana could be used to treat veterans, but VA policy currently bars its doctors from sharing their opinions on marijuana with veterans or recommending it for medical use.
At the news conference Thursday, Legion Executive Director Verna Jones stressed that the Legion is "not advocating for recreational use of marijuana, but we are advocating for the removal of cannabis from Schedule One of the Controlled Substances Act so that more medical investigators can do research."
Lou Celli, the Legion's national director of Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, said that as a former law enforcement officer and Army master sergeant, he was initially skeptical when veterans told him of the beneficial effects of medicinal marijuana.
He said he has come to believe that "cannabis is improperly categorized as a 'most dangerous and most addictive' drug -- right up there with Ecstasy and heroin. Ironically, all of the opioids that kill more than 90 Americans every day are Schedule II and III drugs."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.