VA waiting for federal legalization to recommend medical cannabis

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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

The secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Robert Wilkie, says that the VA will not support helping veterans get access to medical cannabis until it is legalized at the federal level. Many veterans currently use medical cannabis for issues like PTSD, chronic pain and more.

“If the laws change and there’s medical evidence there, of course we look at that,” Wilkie said. “But the law is pretty clear at the federal level.”

As things stand, VA doctors are only allowed to discuss medical cannabis with their patients. These doctors are not allowed to recommend medical cannabis, even if they think it might save a patient’s life. Certain members of Congress have pushed to change this policy, but no progress has been made so far.

“I do not believe that the VA needs to wait for federal legalization to assist veterans in obtaining cannabis,” Roger Martin, founder of the HeroGrown Foundation, told Cannabis News Box. “There is no reason that VA doctors cannot provide patients with a recommendation allowing them to obtain medical cannabis.”

Martin said the VA is essentially complicit in the deaths of veterans that could have been avoided if they had access to medical cannabis. Opioid use is high among veterans, and many die from overdoses. Suicide rates are also high among veterans, as some aren’t helped by the drugs they’re prescribed.

“The VA ’s refusal to assist Vets in obtaining medical cannabis is tantamount to condoning the death of the more than 50 Vets who die each day for prescription drug overdose and suicide,” Martin said.

Martin also believes that the VA’s policy helps feed the black market because many veterans buy cannabis illegally when they cannot obtain it legally. He said this is also a major financial burden for veterans who want access to affordable medical cannabis.

“States could care less about helping veterans obtain cannabis for the treatment of their medical conditions,” Martin said. “In fact, the outrageous taxes placed on cannabis makes obtaining cannabis even more difficult.”

Over 20 veterans commit suicide on a daily basis, often because of their mental conditions that began when they returned from war. Many say cannabis was a miracle for them when the drugs they were prescribed failed to address these issues. If the VA will continue to refuse to act, it would seem action from Congress and the White House will be their only option.