Medical Marijuana for VA Patients

Medical Marijuana for VA Patients

bigstock-The-words-medical-marijuana-su-17121803The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) specifically prohibits its medical providers to provide recommendations and opinions about medical marijuana.

That may be changing.

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a bi-partisan Veterans Medical Marijuana Amendment that allows VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients in states where medical marijuana is legal.

The amendment was sponsored by Democrat Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana.

“I don’t believe we should discriminate against veterans just because they are in the care of the VA,” said Daines.

A 2011 directive by the Veterans Health Administration prohibits agency doctors from consulting patients about medical marijuana use. A veteran is forced to seek a medical appointment out of the VA.

“It’s an enormous inconvenience to our veterans,” said Merkley.

Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia.

“Veterans in medical marijuana states should be treated the same as any other resident, and should be able to discuss marijuana with their doctor and use it if it’s medically necessary,” said Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance.

Medical marijuana is believed to help alleviate symptoms from chronic pain, post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, from which veterans suffer more than the population as a whole.

Pro-marijuana activists have been touting the medical benefits of cannabis, especially cancer, HIV and others who suffer from the most severe cases of chronic pain.

What’s interesting about the VA ban against recommending medical marijuana is that it doesn’t exist in other federal healthcare programs. A Medicare patient may freely discuss medical marijuana use with his or her doctor, but a returning veteran isn’t.

The amendment passing doesn’t mean the ban will be lifted. It still has to pass the U.S. Senate and get through the House, which voted a similar amendment down in April.

This issue appears to be more generational than partisan in Congress.

Earlier this year Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky and Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Corey Booker of New Jersey introduced a bill that would make it easier for people to use state medical marijuana programs without worrying about federal charges.

But veteran Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is not supporting the bill. He is chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. He supports research into medical uses of marijuana, but he’s not close to easing its use.

“I oppose moving marijuana from Schedule 1 to a Schedule 2 drug, based on the current science on the risks and benefits,” Grassley wrote in a statement to the Des Moines Register in March.

The debate continues.

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

There are 6 comments for this article
  1. Robert B Toulouse Jr at 4:46 am

    Ihave read the differant sitreps and I am in the same boat!!!! Unfortunely I live in South Carolina! What can I do about this without jepardizing my benifits? Yours Truely, Robert B Toulouse Jr PS If you are wondering about all of the errs its what all of the drugs I take for the pain do to every day!!!!

  2. Jim Hughes at 1:32 pm

    I am 100% disabled from combat PTSD and have chronic pain. I refuse to take the pain meds the VA prescribed now they were just making me a zombie. The anti depression meds do the same. When will I get relief if I live in a state that does not recognize canabis as medicine. The federal government needs to make concession for those Veterans living in such states. Why is it right for those in legal medical canabis states and not for me we all bleed the same color and have suicidal thoughts. I have no hope living in the state of Alabama that this may happen soon enough. I have been doing research on this manner of treatment and I want to try it without conflict or risk my benefits. Thanks to everyone in my state for the lobbying for my rights. I hope the Alabama state government wakes up to this reality soon.

  3. Vince Blount at 1:19 pm

    We war veterans initially gave up 85% of our freedoms while on active duty to ensure 100% of guaranteed freedoms to all others. On night missions we froze, we wondered if it was our last time out the wire, we sacrificed our holidays, our gatherings and our birthdays. We shared what we could for another’s birthday in war torn battlefields, watched people die, equipment become destroyed by IED’s or RPG’s. During our days we’d be so hot from gear and the sun that it felt like we were living in an oven. Mortars, sniper fire, and bomb laden vehicles trying to punch our perimeter gates. Always wondering if a mortar would hit you while you’re using the bathroom or if that women is carrying a baby or a bomb. Chronic pain disorders from heavy gear, jumping from vehicles mostly on uneven terrain, standing guard 12 hours- 24 hours regardless of weather or temps. Eating food and having flies follow your hand to your mouth, and endure smoke fires with anything but able including bodies that burned from fighting or BVIEDS( car bombs), and never being able to sleep the night through EVER. PTSD, is killing us and mess from the VA is wrecking our internal organs and nuerological structures, respatory issues, sleep apnea, vision issues, and a list of others. I’ve run the gauntlet of VA approved mess and devices.Give me peace or give me death so I can find peace! Ensure the vets and others with PTSD or chronic health issues to have the 100% choice we service members so desperately fought for. Is it really that hard congress, to come away from 1933 Reefer Madness idio scope? Give us the freedom we fought for or be replaced by the votes.!

  4. jeff at 8:05 am

    2 tours to Iraq,1 tour to Afghanistan. 8 years total service in the Army. Why do we have these lazy ass, unknowledgeable people voting on things like this? They care about nothing but money for themselves. I have severe ptsd, insomnia, chronic pain along with muscle spasms and guess what? Medical marijuana has been helping me so much, but for my other suffering brothers and sisters that cant access medical marijuana, they will either be just another number added to the 22 suicidal deaths by veterans each day.

  5. Tim Conway at 7:10 am

    As a 100% service connected disabled veteran, I know first hand what chronic pain, PTSD, and a TBI feels like to endure. It also has affected everyone who surrounds me as well.

    My five children witnessed the damage opioid therapy did to me for ten years. I should be dead, instead transitioned off opioids, 180mg’s a day using medical marijuana. The VA doctors prescribed it, then treated me with ridicule when I had to get off of opioids, what kind of mucked up system is in operation for us veterans.

    Its not like I asked to be blown up!

  6. Darbi Beals Stolk at 8:53 am

    I’ll be glad when lawmakers stop dragging their feet about legalizing cannabis. I don’t wish chronic pain on anyone, but people tend to be a lot more empathetic and understanding when they experience it for themselves or have a close family member they see struggle with it.