First Ever Veterans-Focused Medical Bill Introduced In Senate

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) on Wednesday introduced legislation, The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, to expand and facilitate medical cannabis access to military veterans suffering from chronic pain, PTSD, and other serious medical conditions.

Under existing regulations, VA doctors are not permitted to fill out the mandatory paperwork necessary to recommend cannabis therapy in those 31 states that regulate it. Passage of The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act ends this discrimination against veterans and prevents sanctions against VA doctors who wish to recommend medical cannabis treatment to their patients. The Act also encourages the Veterans Administration to promulgate medical cannabis research, and appropriates funding for scientific studies.

A recent American Legion poll found that nearly one in four veterans use marijuana to alleviate a medical condition. A 2017 review of over 10,000 studies by the National Academy of Sciences concluded, “There is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis and cannabinoids are effective for the treatment for chronic pain in adults.”

Similar legislation, The Veterans Equal Access Act (HR 1820) is pending in the House. You can contact your federal lawmakers in support of both of these bills using the NORML Action Alert.


more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500

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.”

Alaska Trim 4 Vets Seeks To Help Veterans Access Medical Marijuana

ALASKA:  Medical marijuana can help military veterans in many ways. A lot of veterans suffer aches and pains related to their service, and they deserve to use medical marijuana if they want to. Medical marijuana can also help with PTSD, which is something that many veterans deal with on a daily basis. It’s often hard for some veterans to acquire medical marijuana, especially in Alaska where a lot of veterans live in rural areas.

Alaska Trim 4 Vets started to help address that issue. Below is their mission statement, and I encourage all readers to check them out, and make a donation if you are able:

OUR MISSION: The mission of alaskatrim4vets is to help reduce the staggering number of Veterans who die each day from suicide and prescription drug overdose. We provide Veterans with the knowledge and resources necessary for veterans to grow and or obtain medical marijuana for treatment of their medical conditions.

 

Arizona OKs Medical Marijuana For Patients With PTSD

ARIZONA: Thousands of Arizona veterans and others suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder will soon be able to obtain marijuana legally.

State health director Will Humble decided Wednesday there is at least one study showing the drug can be helpful in treating the symptoms of PTSD. He said that, combined with some anecdotal evidence, provides what he needs under Arizona law to allow doctor with a qualifying patient to recommend the drug.

But Humble said he is approving the drug for use only to help patients deal with the symptoms of PTSD. He said there is no evidence that marijuana can be useful to actually treat or cure the condition.

Humble placed one other limit on doctors: Before they can recommend marijuana to deal with PTSD symptoms, they must first attest the patient has been undergoing more conventional treatments. That would require doctors to first try something else rather than simply using marijuana as the first choice.

Arizona Medical Marijuana Supporters To Rally For Veterans With PTSD On April 2

ARIZONA:  On March 10th, the bill H.B. 2333, sponsored by State Representative Ethan Orr of Tucson, passed the Arizona House 52-5, with strong bi-partisan support.  Under Arizona’s medical marijuana law, the money in the medical marijuana fund is reserved for furthering the provisions of the law and should include research and education.  None of it has been spent. H.B. 2333 would give the Arizona Department of Health Services discretion to use some of this surplus funding to study the medical benefits of marijuana.  State Senator Kimberly Yee (Phoenix), who chairs the Senate Education Committee, simply refused to put the bill on her committee’s agenda before the March 20th deadline.

“This bill will help a lot of people. Not just combat veterans, but people with chronic illness and pain who can’t find relief anywhere else. Whether you are for recreational use or against it, we should at least know what marijuana does. It’s research – that’s all we are trying to do,” said the bill’s sponsor, State Representative Ethan Orr. [Read more…]