Military veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars strongly support legalizing marijuana and increasing research into the medical uses of cannabis, according to a new survey.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), a group representing more than 400,000 veterans, published the results of the survey last week.

It showed that 83 percent support legalizing medical marijuana. Under current internal administrative rules, physicians at the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) can discuss medical marijuana with veterans, but they are unable to recommend it as a treatment option.

The survey also revealed a significant increase in support for full legalization since the IAVA’s 2017 survey; a jump from 44 to 55 percent.

On the question of using cannabis or cannabinoid products as an alternative treatment option, 91 percent said they would be interested in doing so if it were available to them.

The results of the survey also make clear a widespread consensus that cannabis should be researched for medical use. Ninety percent agree that there should be further research into cannabis for medical purposes, while 85 percent said that the VA specifically should carry out such research.

Though the VA is allowed to research medical cannabis for veterans, they have yet to do so. For this reason lawmakers re-introduced legislation this month to encourage VA research into marijuana by amending last year’s version with more forceful language mandating the VA to act. Instead of saying the VA ‘may’ study medical cannabis, the latest versions of the bill stipulate that the department ‘shall’ conduct such research.

“Veterans consistently and passionately have communicated that cannabis offers effective help tackling some of the most pressing injuries they face when returning from war,” IAVA said. “Our nation is rapidly moving toward legalizing cannabis, and 33 states now permit medical cannabis. Across party lines, medical cannabis is largely unopposed. Yet our national policies are outdated, research is lacking, and stigma persists.”

The survey also revealed the following:

—20 percent of respondents said they’ve used cannabis for medical purposes.
—Of that group, 66 percent said they’ve also used cannabis for recreational purposes.
—52 percent of respondents live in a state where medical marijuana is legal.
—26 percent said they live in a state where marijuana is fully legal.

The IAVA survey included responses from more than 4,600 of the organization’s members and was carried out between October 19 and November 19, 2018.

The IAVA’s findings are consistent with those of the American Legion, another organisation representing veterans. A survey of its members in 2017 showed that 92 percent want research into medical marijuana, 83 percent support legalizing medical cannabis, and 81 percent would be interested in marijuana as an alternative treatment option.

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