Forgotten Not Gone, a nonprofit organization working to end suicide among veterans supports the use of cannabis and CBD products. In response to the federal government and especially Veterans Administration’s position on legalizing cannabis, Forgotten Not Gone is developing the #HowDareYou coalition with veterans along with representatives from the cannabis industry, cultivation facilities, producers, and testing facilities.
According to Forgotten Not Gone, veterans admitting to VA medical personnel that they use medicinal cannabis are reading the annotation in their medical records stating Cannabis Use Disorder. The organization is unable to find any qualifying criteria for the diagnosis of this “disorder” other than someone admits to using cannabis.
Since cannabis is illegal under federal law and is a Schedule 1 drug of the Controlled Substances Act, the Veterans Administration does not promote the use or dispensing of medicinal cannabis.
Forgotten Not Gone plans to conduct sponsored educational events with participating members of the #HowDareYou coalition. Its goal is to educate veterans on different ways to use cannabis and CBD medicinally and share the healing benefits. The coalition is reaching out to the public to help end the stigma of cannabis and allow veterans the option of using this treatment.
According to USA Suicide 2014 Official Final Data (with updated entries) and the Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention, 20 veterans commit suicide daily across the country. Nevada has one of the highest veteran suicide rates with the state ranking fourth for suicide and sixth for veteran suicide rates. In 2016, the suicide rate was 1 ½ times higher for veterans than civilians. Nevada veterans who are women are three times more likely to die by suicide than the general population.
While cannabis is legal in Nevada, veterans are fearful or bullied into not seeking or utilizing cannabis to treat PTSD, pain, anxiety, depression, or other factors leading to suicide. Veterans looking for employment are afraid to explore opportunities in the cannabis industry.
According to the VA, veterans who are patients participating in state medical cannabis programs are not denied services, but doctors cannot sign any recommendations or give opinions about a patient’s need for prescription cannabis.
One report issued took a negative tone. According to Dr. Devan Kansagara, senior author on the project, the lack of evidence was surprising, as he stated, “We thought we would find more substantial evidence of beneficial effects, given how medical marijuana is widely used.”
The report also stated that there were limited findings but consistent evidence “that active marijuana use in general populations was associated with an increased risk of psychotic symptoms and psychotic spectrum disorders, adverse cognitive effects, and motor vehicle accidents.”
In 2017, the leadership of the VA expressed interest in ongoing research outside the agency. Dr. Kansagara agrees, “We don’t have enough information to confidently answer [whether doctors should recommend cannabis] one way or the other. We certainly need better research.”
The mission of Forgotten Not Gone is “Stomping Out Veteran Suicide” operating with an all-volunteer force. If you know of anyone contemplating suicide, contact the Nevada Office of Suicide Prevention for help and resources. Veterans and their loved ones in crisis can call (800) 273-8255 and Press 1 or get online support at VeteransCrisisLine.net. Veterans can receive free, confidential support from the VA Veterans Hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care.