by Michelle Rutter Friberg, NCIA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations
Last week, NCIA’s Government Relations team honored the veteran community and Memorial Day through our latest #IndustryEssentials webinar. Our Director of Government Relations, Mike Correia, and I “Zoomed” with congressional cannabis champions Congressman Lou Correa (D-CA) and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), as well as the cofounders of the Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Eric Goepel and Bill Ferguson. During the webinar, we talked about how through cannabis, veterans of all generations and with various conditions have experienced improvements in their quality of life and also discussed policy and legislation to address this conundrum. NCIA members can catch the full webinar recording, but in the meantime, check out a few highlights:
Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR):
“In fact, if we were able to have the Veterans Administration (VA) embrace medical cannabis, veterans would get better care because they could deal directly with their primary care physician, who is in the best position to give them appropriate advice. But sadly, the VA is caught with this federal restriction and they have a very narrow interpretation of what they can do, and how they can do it, and they simply do not permit their physicians to work with veterans to discuss and work with — let alone prescribe — medical cannabis.”
Congressman Lou Correa (D-CA):
“These folks came back from the theater of war with a lot of invisible, psychological scars– many of them that never were addressed. Back when I was the Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee in the state of California, I would go on to have town halls and I remember veterans more and more would ask me, ‘Hey state senator, what’s going on with cannabis? I prefer cannabis to opioids, it makes me feel a lot better, I’m being able to function much better, why can’t I be prescribed cannabis by my VA doctor?’ And that really set me off on a quest to address medical cannabis in reference to veterans. Now in Congress, that’s something that I’m trying to work on front and center, and when I say trying to — I am working on it — I’m trying to score some victories there and get this legislation to the President’s desk for a signature, but again in the context of an election coming up, it’s going to be a challenge. But nonetheless, I think it’s a task all of us must take to heart and work hard towards.”
Veterans Cannabis Coalition Co-Founders:
Bill Ferguson: “I think it’s really cool that both of those politicians you know — and you know, they’re not backbench guys either — they essentially say that, you know, like if we can get the VA bill to pass, that will be like opening the floodgates for the rest of the cannabis legislation, you know like the banking and all that kind of stuff. And I think they’re right because you know once you poke a hole in a dam, you know eventually a dam is going to break.”
Eric Goepel: “The problem is that they’re largely out of step with the population — like the general population and the veteran population. I mean Pew’s been tracking public support for medical cannabis legalization and adult-use legalization and it’s 92% in favor of medical use and 60 plus in favor of legalization. That’s pretty overwhelming when it comes to any political issue. Like these issues out-poll most politicians and popularity and certainly, maybe beyond like universal background checks, I can’t think of too many other major policy issues that have this level of public support that see no conversion into federal legislative change.”
We are all so grateful to the Congressmen and the VCC team for joining us. While Memorial Day has now passed, I’m continuing to feel so appreciative of our fallen service members. While all gave some and some gave all, the vast majority of our veterans are still unable to access safe, regulated cannabis, and since they fought for us, we’ll keep fighting for them.
Stay tuned for upcoming Fireside Chat webinars with NCIA’s Government Relations team.