Article by Caleb Masoner
Could the latest PREVENTS Act (President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide) be the signal for cannabis legalization?
Many veterans have been using cannabis after returning from multiple deployments and dealing with Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Military Sexual Assault and Trauma (MSA/T) and many other injuries stemming from military service. Veterans have turned to each other and created many different nonprofit organizations to address the issue that President Trump spoke on.
Will the federal government reach out to groups like Operation 1620, Veterans Walk and Talk and Veterans Cannabis Project to include them as part of the new Cabinet-level task force created by the PREVENTS Act? We hope so. They have one year to meet, build a strategy and submit it. The statistics are astounding. A number that veterans know too well and the general public is shocked to learn; an average of 20 veterans take their own life every single day.
President Trump goes on to say that the issue was that they(veterans) took their life simply because they did not know or had not learned about the resources available to them. I believe the reason that they took their life was because the resources that were available to them were incomplete and ignorant of the anecdotal evidence that many veteran cannabis organizations experience on a regular basis. The out of control pharmaceutical fix has been creating a dependency issue that has led to the opioid crisis and the lack of options has contributed to the veteran suicide crisis. Could it be that the statistic that many veterans had not used the VA in two years signal the lost faith in the Department of Veterans Affairs among younger returning veterans?
Last year it was reported by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that the Department of VA had budgeted $6,200,000 dollars in 2018 to bring awareness to their suicide prevention hotline. We added the zeros for comparison because by September 2018, only $57,000 had been spent on those efforts. Not even one percent. The GAO also found that social media posts in 2017-18 dropped significantly to bring awareness to the program. While I cannot conclusively say that this is the reason, I can assure you that it does not help.
Veterans need real people and veterans understand veteran issues better than anyone else. Certainly more than someone placed into some sort of agency. We hope to gain a seat at the table and that this panel will think outside of the box as well as accept that the conventional methods have failed our veterans so far. It is time that we allow for official research to be done to help corroborate the anecdotal evidence that cannabis can be a useful tool to help assist veterans who are struggling.
If you or someone that you know is struggling with mental health issues, please reach out to the VA Suicide Prevention Hotline, which is available 24/7/365 at 1-800-273-8255 (option 1), send a text message to 838255 to chat, or call 911 for immediate assistance.