There is a defense bill on the table which could allow soldiers on active duty to use experimental medicines, including marijuana, while in combat.
According to a report from Politico, the measure (HR 2810) would give the secretary of defense the power to grant military service members working outside the United States the freedom to use drugs that have not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The goal of the bill is “to reduce the number of deaths or the severity of harm to members of the armed forces… caused by a risk or agent of war,” a conference report reads.
But the obstacle is that there is a lot of pressure on Capitol Hill not to break policy—keeping the determination of what constitutes “safe and effective” medicine solely in the hands of the FDA.
Part of the law allows the FDA to give the Pentagon permission to use experimental medications in the event of a nuclear attack and other chemical threats. Therefore, the Department of Defense is essentially asking for Congress to extend the existing permissions by giving the military absolute say in declaring “emergency uses for medical products to reduce deaths and severity of injuries caused by agents of war.”
“Traditional pathways to [FDA] approval and licensure of critical medical products for battlefield use are too slow to allow for rapid insertion and use of these products on the battlefield,” according to the conference report. “This provision could lead to even higher survival rates from severe battlefield wounds suffered by service members.”
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb continues to protest its implications despite the outcome of the defense bill having very little effect on everyday life in the United States. He believes that without the guidance of his agency, military personnel would suffer greater risks. It is for this reason the FDA has countered the DOD’s proposal—asking that military officials be forced to petition the FDA for emergency medications. That offer wasn’t approved.
There is nothing specific in the verbiage of the bill that specifies the emergency use of medical marijuana, as the argument actually stems from the military’s inability to get “frozen plasma”, but the plan would give the Pentagon the right to distribute unapproved medications. It stands to reason that cannabis could be high on the list.
A poll shows that 82% of veterans approve of the use of cannabis for medicinal reasons.
It is possible that that the Pentagon would rather treat soldiers suffering from chronic pain and anxiety with medical marijuana instead of dangerous prescription drugs.
The debate over allowing the use of medical cannabis for active duty soldiers will continue this week.