In a bit of bad news, the Department of Veterans Affairs has come out against a set of bills that are designed to protect veterans who use medical marijuana legally within the rules set forth by their home state. The additional bills would expand research into the medical benefits of cannabis along with allowing VA doctors to write medical cannabis recommendations.

It is important to point out that all of these bills stop short of requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to prescribe or pay for medical cannabis. The goal behind these pieces of legislation is to create an environment where the verteran can speak freely with VA medical professionals about their use of cannabis without fear of losing benefits to include access to VA medical care.

VA Medical Cannabis Research ACT – This bill introduced by Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) would require the VA to conduct a clinical study on the benefits and risks associated with the use of medical marijuana to treat serious medical conditions such as post traumatic-stress disorder and chronic pain.Very little research has taken place at a federal level due to cannabis being listed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance under the Controlled Substance Act. The passing of this bill would provide much-needed research dollars and resources to study the potential life saving benefits of using medical cannabis to help our heroes who have sacrificed so much to defend our country.  

“It’s time to make sure that veterans get to know what cannabis is good for and what cannabis is not good for. We need medical research,” Correa said. “ We owe our veterans a tremendous amount. The least we can do is make sure we’re giving them the proper treatment for those invisible wounds that they brought back from the battlefield.”

Veterans Equal Access Act – Introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) this bill would allow VA physicians to issue medical cannabis recommendations that the vereran could then use to obtain a state-issued medical marijuana card. States with some form of medical marijuana require applicants to obtain a referral from their primary physician that recommends that the patient could benefit from the use of medical cannabis. The veteran would still need to seek out and pay for medical marijuana outside of the federally funded Department of Veteran Affairs. This bill will also create a safe space for an open dialog between the VA primary care physicians and the veteran patients who are using medical marijuana.Simply put, the use of medical marijuana is much more effective when treatment is being overseen by a medical professional. Rep. Blumenauer strongly believes the veterans within his district who claim that medical cannabis helps with combat fatigue and post traumatic stress syndrome.

“This is the first time we’ve had a hearing like this with a substantive committee,” Blumenauer said. “One of the great tragedies of our time is the failure to adequately address the needs of veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.. An overwhelming number of veterans tell me that cannabis has reduced PTSD symptoms [and] the dependency on addictive opioids.”

The House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health is also considering a bill from Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) that would codify an existing policy at the Department of Veterans Affairs that would protect veterans from being stripped of their benefits when using medical cannabis in compliance with the laws of their respective state.