For more than a decade, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been dealing with a quiet crisis in a way similar to how it dealt with abhorrent conditions at its main hospital: Continue apace with a broken system and pray nobody notices. Spoiler—it’s not working, and it’s obvious.
As many as 30 percent of the 2.7 million men and women deployed to war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 returned with post-traumatic stress disorder. Many other veterans also suffer from chronic pain. To date, opiates have been central to the VA’s strategy for dealing with war’s predictable and lasting collateral damage. (That the country’s opiate crisis arose at the same time as the country’s two ongoing and apparently edless foreign wars is sheer coincidence, surely.)
A growing number of combat veterans believe cannabis is an appropriate, effective and nonaddictive long-term solution for PTSD and chronic pain, and they want to be able to use it with the full approval and cooperation of the VA.