Top Cannabis and PTSD Researcher From Veterans Affairs Shares New Research at Vermont Dispensary
MILTON, Vt. — Inside the nondescript industrial building that houses the primary growing facility and headquarters of the state’s largest medical marijuana dispensary, nearly 40 Vermont medical marijuana patients and dispensary employees gathered to hear Dr. Marcel Bonn-Miller, Ph.D, one of the nation’s top cannabis researchers at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) discuss the interactions between cannabis and PTSD, one of the most important and widely-discussed topics in medical marijuana.
The educational event was coordinated by Champlain Valley Dispensary (CVD), the largest medical marijuana dispensary in Vermont, based in Burlington. The event included an interactive presentation and Q&A session and was open to dispensary staff and registered CVD medical marijuana patients, who represented about a third of the nearly 40 total attendees.
CVD Retail Operations Manager Chris Copley noted that as the dispensary grows and matures as a business, they’re starting to focus more on educational outreach and opportunities for patients to connect with each other and that PTSD is a frequent topic of discussion.
“We had been doing research about PTSD, which isn’t presently a qualifying conditions. We feel that’s something that possibly we could advocate for in the future, so it was kind of timely. And we do have a lot of veteran patients who do bring this up with us, so for all of the dispensary staff and for everyone to learn more about the research, it made sense.”
When examining the specific intersections of cannabis and PTSD, Dr. Marcel Bonn-Miller, Ph.D, is perhaps the most qualified researcher in the United States. Based at the VA offices in Palo Alto, California as well as the University of Pennsylvania, his full job title is, “Research Health Science Specialist at the Center of Excellence in Substance Abuse Treatment and Education (CESATE), National Center for PTSD (NCPTSD), and Center for Innovation to Implementation (Ci2i), at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Palo Alto Health Care System & Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
Cannabis and the Military
During the Vietnam War, many Americans were introduced to cannabis for the first time, and while some brought back a habit and taste for smoking the Southeast Asian Sensi, many more returned with PTSD and physical injuries. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the rates of PTSD for Vietnam veterans might have been as high as 30%, double the rates of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, respectively. While the notion of war causing mental anguish is hardly a contemporary one (see: “All is Quiet on the Western Front”), those Vietnam War veterans were the first subjects of serious medical and psychological research into PTSD and trauma.
During and immediately after Vietnam, the cultural distance between the crew-cut military establishment and the long-haired cannabis user was about as close as the Haight-Ashbury was to Ho Chi Minh City. Much of that changed thanks to Jack Herer, the author of the seminal pro-legalization book, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” and one of the most influential and impactful cannabis advocates up until his passing in 2010. While Herer is already a legend in the cannabis community, many don’t realize that Herer himself was a veteran of the Korean War.
In 2011, the VA changed its policy to ensure that veterans using medical marijuana in legal states aren’t being punished, however due to the federal status of cannabis as a Schedule one drug (“with no medicinal purpose”) things are still complicated.