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.