Veterans, Medical Marijuana, and the VA: What You Need to Know

A survey from the Department of Veterans Affairs recently indicated about a millionmedical marijuana veterans are using medical marijuana. This is in spite of the fact that the department does not allow its doctors to recommend marijuana. The department cites Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. Section 812 as the reason for this policy, stating they are bound by the federal ban on cannabis being part of a federal agency. The department even shies away from studying the benefits of cannabis, instead focusing their research almost entirely on its problems, according to an article from New York Times.

For veterans who rely on medical treatment through the VA, this can mean they never receive access to medical marijuana. Many veterans have reported cannabis to be an effective treatment for chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder – two common issues among those who have fought in wars. It could also mean that veterans will still seek a way to obtain medical marijuana, either by visiting a physician certified to recommend cannabis other than their VA doctor, by purchasing recreational marijuana if they live in a state where it’s legal, or by illicit means. None of these methods are ideal, and this certainly is not the way we should be treating those who have served our country. There are, however, a few things that would be helpful for veterans to know about medical marijuana and the VA.The VA has a list of guidelines to help veterans understand their patient rights and how medical marijuana and VA treatments can co-exist.

  • Veterans will not be denied VA benefits if they disclose marijuana use.
  • They are encouraged to discuss medical marijuana use with their VA provider.
  • Use will be recorded, but will remain confidential as part of privacy laws.
  • VA will not recommend medical marijuana, will not fill out paperwork to participate in state programs, will not fill prescriptions for any form of marijuana at VA pharmacies, and will not pay for prescriptions of medical marijuana from other sources.
  • Use or possession of medical marijuana is not permitted on VA property, which is considered federal property, operating under federal law.
  • VA employees are subject to drug testing.

The department is currently involved in two studies about the potential positive effects of medical marijuana: one that tests CBD and its effects on PTSD (which is slated to last through 2023) and another that studies pain relief for hospice care patients. These studies are small steps, but steps nonetheless. Meanwhile, other people and organizations are stepping up to bat for our veterans. American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars are pushing for expanded studies, for example. The Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance gathers donations from growers to give away to veterans for free every month to help those who cannot afford to get cannabis without the help of their VA benefits. The giveaway bags include a variety of products, such as candies, hemp oils, lotions, pills, and smokable strains, giving veterans many options depending on their needs.

Our Los Angeles medical marijuana lawyers also will always be here to defend our veterans seeking relief with the help of cannabis.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients, defendants, workers and those facing criminal marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.

Additional Resources:

VA and Marijuana – What Veterans Need to Know, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

More Blog Entries:

Veterans Continue to be Denied Medical Marijuana Access, May 1, 2014, Cannabis Law Group


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