VA Policy On Medical Marijuana And Veterans

 The VA Medical Cannabis Act of 2018 is not yet the law of the land. So what is the official VA policy on veterans using cannabis?

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: As more states consider authorizing the medical use of marijuana, there has been a growing number of voices among the veteran community urging the Department of Veterans Affairs to reconsider its’ policies on medical cannabis.

These voices include Representative Phil Roe (R) of Tennessee and Representative Tim Walz (D) of Minnesota, who have introduced House Resolution 5520, The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018.

H.R. 5520 would, if passed, authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs to do medical marijuana research. Specifically, Congress.gov says the bill, “authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct and support research on the efficacy and safety of certain forms of cannabis and cannabis delivery for veterans enrolled in the VA health care system diagnosed with conditions such as chronic pain or post-traumatic stress disorder.”

As of June 2018, that legislation has been introduced only, but the fact that a bipartisan effort to create this policy happened at all is an indicator that American society is ready to discuss an end to the prohibition of cannabis, or at a minimum that it’s time to approve marijuana and hemp plant derivatives such as Cannabidiol (aka CBD) for use as medicine.

The VA Medical Cannabis Act of 2018 is not yet the law of the land. So what is the official VA policy on veterans using cannabis?

Official Defense Department Policy On Marijuana

The United States Department of Defense, which is responsible for policy for the United States Military, is NOT part of this discussion about medical marijuana. VA policy on the use of cannabis by the veteran population is not connected with the official DoD policies.

The Department of Defense maintains its’ marijuana prohibition on currently serving military members, and military recruiters are required to use discretion when interviewing potential new recruits about possible drug use prior to military service.

At one time, the recreational use of marijuana or its’ derivatives could be grounds for rejecting a new recruit. However, recruiters do not have to bar the enlistment of those with minor pot experimentation at the time of this writing. Instead, the recruiter may, at his or her discretion, apply for a waiver for such recruits.

All new recruits are advised that there is a zero tolerance for any illegal substance abuse issues in the military. Those who test positive for illegal drugs or illegally used prescription drugs are subject to punishment and possible discharge from the military.


military-marijuana
Department Of Veterans Affairs Policy On Medical Marijuana

The issues facing veterans who use pot while seeking treatment from the VA are more complex. Those who use marijuana to relieve symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or other service-connected medical issues may be afraid to discuss this with a VA care provider out of fear that their VA benefits may be in jeopardy for doing so.

What is the reality? The VA official site states clearly that any substance that is illegal on the federal level is NOT permitted to be used, recommended, prescribed, or endorsed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, up to and including the recommendation that veterans use pot to alleviate symptoms or pain.

Under the policies active at the time of this writing, any substance listed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a Schedule One controlled substance are subject to this prohibition at the VA level.

As more states consider authorizing the medical use of marijuana, there has been a growing number of voices among the veteran community urging the Department of Veterans Affairs to reconsider its’ policies on medical cannabis.

These voices include Representative Phil Roe (R) of Tennessee and Representative Tim Walz (D) of Minnesota, who have introduced House Resolution 5520, The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018.

H.R. 5520 would, if passed, authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs to do medical marijuana research. Specifically, Congress.gov says the bill, “authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct and support research on the efficacy and safety of certain forms of cannabis and cannabis delivery for veterans enrolled in the VA health care system diagnosed with conditions such as chronic pain or post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Enough With This Silly War On Marijuana

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Before he tried marijuana, he thought of trying suicide.

Heavy drinking hadn’t helped. Nor had various pills prescribed by Veterans Affairs doctors. He was still angry, still depressed, still could not sleep.

But he found that marijuana helped. It took the anger and depression away. It took the sleeplessness away. Most of all, it took the 11-year-old boy away.

Pfc. Jared Hunter never knew the boy’s name. He was just some Iraqi kid who liked to hang around the Army base outside Baghdad. “He didn’t really speak English or nothing. He would just kind of follow us around and would point things out or tell us if there was somebody there who shouldn’t have been.”

Marijuana For Trauma Inc. Opens GTA Office For Veterans

CANADA:  Former soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress in Ontario may soon be able to access medical marijuana with ease.

Marijuana for Trauma Inc., an organization that specializes in helping veterans get medical marijuana, just opened a new facility in Markham, Ont. The organization’s founders, who have opened operations in several other provinces, say there are already 40 veterans in this region looking for assistance.

Former soldier Chris Dupee is one of those veterans. He used to drive 14 hours to New Brunswick to have his prescription for medical marijuana filled and paid for by Veterans Affairs.

Congress Should End Medical Marijuana Gag Order On V.A. Doctors

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  As soon as this afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives will be voting on the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, which sets the budget for the Veterans Administration (V.A.). Representatives Blumenauer (D-OR), Heck (R-NV), Gibbard (D-HI), Reed (R-NY), Lee (D-CA), Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Titus (D-NV) will be re-introducing the Veterans Equal Access Amendment (VEAA), which would lift the gag.

Under V.H.A. Directive 2011-004, V.A. physicians are explicitly forbidden from being able to fill out recommendation forms or even offer their medical opinion about whether a veteran patient might benefit from participating in a state medical marijuana program. This means that veterans who are dependent on the V.A. for their health care are denied equal access to state medical marijuana programs.  This means that veterans must go out of pocket and establish a patient-doctor relationship with a new physician, something that can cost hundreds of dollars or more. This is especially disturbing because veterans who are the most financially challenged are the ones who are most likely to rely on the V.A. for their health care needs.

The VEAA would forbid the V.A. from using any funds to punish physicians who write state-legal medical marijuana recommendations. In doing so, the VEAA would allow veterans to have safe and legal access to medical marijuana in states that allow its therapeutic use under the recommendation of a physician.

More Veterans Press VA To Recognize Medical Marijuana As Treatment Option

ILLINOIS:  Every morning, former Air Force senior airman Amy Rising makes breakfast for her second-grader, drives him to school and returns home to prepare what she calls her medicine.

She suffers from severe anxiety after four years working in the frenetic global command center at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, coordinating bombings and other missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rising says she has found a treatment that helps her cope. But her local Veterans Affairs hospital does not provide it — because her medicine is a joint.

At a time when the legalized use of marijuana is gaining greater acceptance across the country, Rising is among a growing number of veterans who are coming out of the “cannabis closet” and pressing the government to recognize pot as a legitimate treatment for the wounds of war. They say it is effective for addressing various physical and psychological conditions related to military service — from chronic back pain and neuropathic issues to panic attacks and insomnia — and often preferable to widely prescribed opioid painkillers and other drugs.

 

2nd Round Of Illinois Marijuana Patients To Apply

ILLINOIS:  Aspiring medical marijuana patients whose last names start with M through Z can soon apply to the Illinois Department of Public Health for a registry card.

The department begins accepting applications from that group starting Saturday.

Illinois has been processing paperwork from thousands of applicants whose last names begin with A through L. Others have been asked to wait until Nov. 1 to apply.

Most patients must have a written certification from their doctor to use medical marijuana in the state’s new program. Only military veterans getting Veterans Affairs care won’t need a doctor to sign off. VA doctors, as federal employees, aren’t permitted to recommend controlled substances.