Many industry experts believe that federal cannabis legalization is inevitable. Everything seems to be pointing in that direction, although, they also agree that it's not happening any time soon.
Even with Biden’s recent cannabis pardons action. Marijuana activists seem to have seen through this strategic move, carried out right before the midterm elections. The groups fighting for a higher cause (pardon the pun) are already protesting in front of the White House, demanding the President keep his promise and free all cannabis prisoners.
Not to mention all the marijuana-related promises Biden made during his 2020 election campaign including decriminalization as well as automatic expungement of prior cannabis convictions. After two years in the Oval Office, here come pardons benefiting merely 6,500 people. Talk about a slow pace.
Perhaps federal legalization isn't first up, but how about SAFE Banking Act? Will this be the next cannabis-related legislation to receive the President’s signature?
To get more insight from experts, Benzinga reached out to Bryan Buckley, founder and CEO of Helmand Valley Growers Company, a cannabis manufacturer that donates 100% of its profits to help veterans. As a US Marine Corps veteran and passionate cannabis advocate, Buckley knows how to fight.
“I am a 100% disabled veteran who was wounded and awarded a Purple Heart in Afghanistan but also served in Iraq, South East Asia, and Africa,” Buckley told Benzinga. “I suffer from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) and began to consume cannabis in 2016 and it completely changed my life for the better.”
How To Get Medical Marijuana Into VHA?
After experiencing benefits from medical marijuana, Buckley wanted to help others dealing with the same issues. Unfortunately, military veterans in the U.S. are denied access to medical marijuana, because it is still a Schedule 1 drug, and veterans get their healthcare via the VA, which is a federal agency. As such, the VA is not allowed to recommend or prescribe a substance deemed illegal under federal law. Simple as that, but so difficult to change.
But Buckley has accepted the challenge. He spoke to members of Congress and asked what was needed to get medical cannabis into the Veterans’ Health Administration (VHA).
“I was told that if I could get data and have it backed by American doctors, I would have a good argument with those on Capitol Hill who opposed cannabis access for veterans,” Buckley explained.
That’s how he decided to partner his nonprofit organization Battle Brothers Foundation with an Israeli company, NiaMedic Healthcare and Research Services.
“We decided to submit for an Institutional Review Board (IRB) which falls under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that we have been approved to conduct our research on humans. It would be the only way we could publish our findings in Medical Journals and would be the only way medical professionals would take our research seriously.”
Buckley's California cannabis brand, HVGC is donating 100% of its profit to fund this veteran's medical marijuana research. They used the first $50,000 to fund a study design and were approved for a private IRB, which means they are not working with the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) program.
“Now we have Israeli researchers working with US Veterans [and] with American doctors as our principal investigators. The outcome will be that we will develop a recommended treatment protocol and develop a formulation to reduce the symptoms of PTS.”
Republicans Could Lead Marijuana Reform
After meeting with members of Congress, Buckley began to think that Republicans are going to lead in ending cannabis prohibition thanks to their common sense legislation, such as the States Reform Act from Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC). According to Buckley, it matters a lot that Mace used cannabis for medical benefits and that her life story helped her “get it. She truly understands the medical value and that is very impactful.” Buckley also highlighted that David Joyce (R-OH) has been a strong advocate for veteran cannabis in his role as co-chair of the House Cannabis Caucus.
He added that Mace’s legislation is much better than Senators Chuck Schumer and Cory Booker’s Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), which is “like the California Cannabis program on steroids.” Mostly, he said, because of the enormous taxes that would keep illegal cannabis blossoming while only large corporations would be able to survive.
Buckley agrees with other industry experts that SAFE Banking Plus has a chance to pass the Senate in a “lame duck” session, especially if they empower it with social equity propositions.
“What I am hearing is that they will add some veteran benefits along with expunging misdemeanor cannabis crimes. That should be enough to get the required votes and move to President Biden’s desk.”
Education + Research Make The Winning Combination
According to Buckley, one thing needed for common sense legislation to be passed is education.
Thanks partly to large corporations, “it seems that many politicians look at cannabis as the ‘tax tree’.”
“They also need more research to understand the upside potential that cannabis provides. When they understand the medical benefits, it will greatly reduce the opioid epidemic and have an impact on veteran suicide.”
Buckley doesn’t claim that marijuana is for everyone, but rather that it “should be a tool in the toolkit. Veterans with access to cannabis will help save the lives of our Nation’s heroes. Period. End of story.”
To all companies, investors and individuals who are fighting for the same cause, Buckley invites them to help out by donating to Battle Brothers Foundation, adding that more research will help not only veterans but all patients who find relief from cannabis.
Buckley concluded the interview with an important message: “Veterans having access to medical cannabis will reduce the number of opiates/pills that they may be prescribed and will help them live the American Dream that they so valiantly defended.”
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