The Veteran Affairs Stance on Medical Marijuana

If you’re a Veteran, like me, you probably feel as if you should have a choice in your treatment and medicine. You are old enough to die for your country at 18 years old, you’re old enough to vote, and by 21 years of age, you’re able to legally consume alcohol. I don’t have to tell you the dangers of using alcohol as a self-medicating method; but since it’s legal that is where some of our Veterans are turning for care. 

They also turn to the Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors for support, but instead they’re receiving opiates and other dangerous concoctions called “medicine”. It doesn’t seem logical to me VA doctors are authorized to prescribe legalized Heroin made from synthetics and not a natural herb that has been treating human beings and animals for centuries. 

VA providers cannot recommend medical cannabis or provide paperwork requesting medical cannabis in state-approved marijuana programs.  The VA will also not provide funding or coverage for state-approved medical marijuana programs, which shouldn’t be a surprise.

Pharmaceutical companies and the federal government seem to be thick as thieves when it comes to getting their funding. Which brings me to another point:  The Department of Veterans Affairs is NOT legally bound to abide by the federal guidelines. They have a choice as to whether they will implement a medical marijuana program; or at least allow VA Providers to follow state guidelines outlining the state-approved medical marijuana programs. (See VHA Directive 1315)

You’re probably wondering, “Well, what DOES the VA do to offer more support to Veterans who want to consume Cannabis?  If I’m being honest–not much.  Not yet. 

However, there has been a bill introduced in the House that would authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs 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.  The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018, H.R.5520-115th Congress, was introduced in mid-April 2018. 

(https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/5520)

While VA doctors may not medically prescribe cannabis, there is a policy in place where veterans are encouraged to discuss medical marijuana with their VA providers.  Once you open the discussion to your VA provider, they will document that information in your medical records and it will be on file. 

It doesn’t help if you have a staunch VA provider or someone who allows their personal opinions to take over their legal obligation to do what’s best for the patient. It is YOUR right and YOUR choice if you want to accept the authorized prescribed pharmaceuticals from your VA doctor. 

If you feel your VA provider would not understand, or you don’t feel you have a close enough relationship with your VA provider to discuss cannabis as a treatment option, reach out to a cannabis professionalLegally, you cannot lose any current benefits you may be receiving whether you’re actively consuming cannabis or if you bring up the subject to your provider; so please don’t be afraid of repercussions. 

Jaime Scott

U.S. Air Force Veteran. Cannabis Enthusiast. Owner of The Hempuralist.