Medical cannabis has clearly gone mainstream with over 90% support across the nation and a majority of states have now passed medicinal laws. There are several problems with many of these programs, but one of the glaring issues is the fact that too many military veterans lack access to these state programs because of federal law. While some progress has been made at the federal level, unfortunately, Veterans Affairs doctors aren’t allowed to sign off on medical marijuana authorizations.
NORML describes the VA’s current medical cannabis policy:
A policy guidance update issued by the US Department of Veterans Affairs encourages greater communication about cannabis between doctors and veterans, but continues to forbid physicians from explicitly recommending it as a therapeutic option in states where the substance is legal.
The updated directive urges V.A. doctors to foster discussions with veterans about their cannabis use “due to its clinical relevance to patient care.” It also affirms that “veterans must not be denied VHA [Veteran Health Administration] services solely for participating in state-approved marijuana programs.”
However, the updated directive maintains that “providers are prohibited from completing forms or registering veterans for participation in state-approved [medical marijuana] program[s].”
According to nationwide survey data compiled by the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, 75 percent of military veterans “would be interested in using cannabis or cannabinoid products as a treatment option if it were available.”
The American Legion, the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, has adopted a resolution urging the “United States government to permit V.A. medical providers to be able to discuss with veterans the use of marijuana for medical purposes and recommend it in those states where medical marijuana laws exist.”
It is time for Congress to grant physicians affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs the same discretion as other doctors in medical cannabis states. Politicians should no longer put politics ahead of the health and well-being of America’s military veterans, some of whom may potentially benefit from medical marijuana.
Whether military veterans decide to use cannabis medically or recreationally, they certainly deserve to be free from government persecution for marijuana after serving our nation and sacrificing so much. It’s great that many political leaders are bringing this issue to the forefront, but for the sake of our veterans, let’s do all that we can to help those that have given so much to us.