Americans have really begun to embrace the idea of legalizing marijuana. The most recent Gallup poll conducted among adults found that 64% are in favor of legalizing marijuana—marking a significant shift since 1969, when only 12% of Americans supported legalization. Yet, despite this swell of support, medical marijuana remains out of reach for those who could stand to benefit from it the most: our veterans.
The American Legion is the largest organization of wartime veterans, and they have long advocated researching the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana. The Legion strongly believes this alternative should be accessible to the 60% of veterans who return from combat deployment with chronic pain. These pain-burdened veterans are often presented with only one option: to begin opioid painkiller regimens. In addition to the overwhelming danger of addiction to these painkillers, veterans are also twice as likely as the general population to suffer accidental opioid overdoses.
Efforts to Educate on Medical Marijuana
In their pursuit of a better solution for veterans, the American Legion put forth two resolutions that encompass their approach to medical marijuana.
- Resolution 11: Passed in 2016, this resolution calls on Congress to remove marijuana from the list of Schedule I drugs, and reclassify it in a category that recognizes it as a potentially therapeutic drug. This resolution also asks the DEA to issue licenses to private medical marijuana production operations, to help expedite safe research on its use as a medical drug.
- Resolution 28: Passed in 2017, this resolution calls for the VA to lift restrictions on medical providers, so that they can openly and frankly discuss marijuana with veterans, and to recommend it in states where medical marijuana is legal.
With these two resolutions in place, the American Legion has established itself as a staunch advocate for medical marijuana research—so it’s only natural that the organization is using the results of a new poll to bolster their position.
Crunching the Numbers
The American Legion released the results of an independent poll conducted by Five Corners Strategies earlier this month. While the Legion was certainly hoping to find a majority support for medical marijuana among veterans when they commissioned the study, the numbers were still a welcome surprise.
The robo-call poll collected survey answers from 513 veterans, and 289 caregivers of veterans. Here is a breakdown of the most critical findings:
- 92% of all respondents are in favor of medical research into marijuana.
- 82% of all respondents are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana altogether.
Both veterans and their caregivers support federally legalizing cannabis for the treatment of mental or physical illnesses.
- 81% of veterans are in favor of federally legal marijuana treatments.
- 83% of caregivers are in favor of federally legal marijuana treatments.
An even greater percentage of veterans and caregivers support the research of medical marijuana.
- 92% of veterans support research into medical marijuana.
- 93% of caregivers support research into medical marijuana.
One of the most impactful facts revealed by this poll is that veterans are already using medical marijuana to alleviate physical and psychological symptoms, regardless of whether they live in a state where medical cannabis is legal.
- 1 in 5 veterans uses marijuana for medical purposes.
- About 40% of caregivers know a veteran who uses marijuana for medical purposes.
- 60% of survey respondents live in a state where medical marijuana is illegal.
Another striking aspect of the survey is the universality of support for medical marijuana. It certainly appears to transcend age groups. While younger people are far more likely to support medical marijuana legalization, even older veterans and caregivers are on board with legalization for medical purposes.
- 100% of respondents aged 18-30 are in favor of federally legalizing medical marijuana.
- 96% of respondents aged 31-45 are in favor of federally legalizing medical marijuana.
- 87% of respondents aged 46-59 are in favor of federally legalizing medical marijuana.
- 79% of respondents aged 60 and over are in favor of federally legalizing medical marijuana.
Political self-identification did not seem to stop respondents from registering their support either. Somewhat surprisingly, the lowest percentage of approval came from non-partisan respondents, who supported the legalization of medical marijuana at a rate of 70%.
- 88% of conservatives surveyed support federally legalizing medical marijuana.
- 90% of liberals surveyed support federally legalizing medical marijuana.
Giving Veterans a Voice
With a +/-3.5% margin of error and a 95% confidence level, this poll serves as a strong reinforcement of the American Legion’s position on medical marijuana. What many people knew anecdotally about veterans’ attitudes toward marijuana has now been borne out in a huge way. When so many veterans are in favor of at least investigating marijuana’s medical benefits, it’s jarring to consider that VA medical professionals are barred from discussing medical cannabis with veterans even in states where it’s already legal.
Cannabis has already been proven to possess medical benefits, time and time again. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine looked at over 10,000 scientific abstracts of marijuana studies. With all evidence considered, they found that marijuana does in fact, have a significant impact in reducing chronic pain symptoms.
This isn’t a surprise to many, and it’s certainly not news to the 20% of veterans who already medicate with marijuana. The question is: now that this poll has amplified veterans’ voices on medical cannabis, will our officials do their incumbent duty and listen?
Spencer Grey is a staff writer for Smoking Outlet.