With its abundance of medical applications, the use of medical marijuana has become a beneficial treatment for patients throughout the U.S. Many of the patients who medicate with cannabis products are veterans of the armed services, and these brave men and women have found relief from a variety of conditions ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to cancer. In fact, there is a huge list of medical conditions that actively respond to marijuana as a treatment.
Despite it’s proven results and the fact that more than half of the states in our country have now approved marijuana for medical use, physicians at the VA have been unable to even broach the topic of cannabis medications with their veteran patients — that is, until now.
On June 7, 2018, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed a new amendment that protects the rights of individual states who have approved medical marijuana programs. The legislation allows VA doctors to discuss the use of cannabis treatments in states where the plant has been legalized for medical use. This is a huge leap forward for both medical marijuana as a recognized treatment, as well as for our veterans who deserve the best possible care available.
This Amendment Represents a Bipartisan Movement for Change
Many veterans enjoy the medical benefits the U.S. Department of Veterans of Affairs (VA) provides. The VA runs the country’s largest integrated healthcare system, which includes more than 1700 hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities. However, until now, veterans have been unable to utilize the VA’s medical services provided to seek out medical marijuana recommendations — even in legal states. In fact, VA doctors weren’t even able to bring the topic up as an idea or suggestion.
The newly approved amendment was secured in the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act back in 2015, which Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley and Republican Senator Steve Daines both supported. For almost three years, Daines has led a bipartisan group of 21 senators and representatives urging the VA to permit doctors to discuss medical marijuana as a treatment option and issue physician recommendations in states that have legalized it.
Up until now, multiple amendments have been blocked concerning veterans access to medical cannabis. However, the June 2018 vote is a huge leap forward for veterans who would benefit from cannabis treatment. Once the approved measure is included in the VA’s final Fiscal Year 2019 spending legislation, this extensive health department that serves the brave men and women of the armed services will no longer be able to enforce a ban on medical marijuana recommendations.
What This Amendment Means for Veterans
Until now, if a veteran needed a medical marijuana recommendation in states where this option is legal, they would have to seek out a different medical facility. Even if the VA covered all their other healthcare needs, they were even unable to discuss the topic of medical cannabis with their physicians. However, this new amendment represents a chance for equal opportunities.
The main point is that veterans should not lose out just because they receive medical care from the VA. After all they’ve done for our country, veterans deserve the best possible treatments to suit their individual medical needs, just as they would receive from a medical facility not associated with the VA.
This amendment included in the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act makes the following provisions associated with the use of medical marijuana:
- The VA will not interfere with any veteran who wishes to participate in their state’s medical marijuana program.
- Veterans will be protected from repercussions of being apart of a medical marijuana program. Particularly, the VA cannot deny services to these individuals.
- VA Department health care providers will be able to make appropriate recommendations or fill out necessary forms so veteran patients can take the required steps to comply with their state’s medical marijuana program.
How This Amendment Will Impact the VA
With the approval of this amendment, the VA will become a more effective source of treatment for veterans struggling with different medical conditions. Not only does this open the door to allow physicians to discuss cannabis as a viable treatment option, but it also enables VA doctors to write medical marijuana recommendations.
The cannabis community highly values veterans. In fact, many dispensaries in states across the U.S. offer veteran discounts as a sign of honor to these brave men and women. Now, veterans have the opportunity to visit their regular healthcare provider at the VA to discuss all the medical opportunities out there, including medicinal cannabis.
This will be a huge relief for veteran patients who have had to spend extra time, money and effort to visit a different physician who was willing to offer them a recommendation for medical marijuana. This amendment represents a more compassionate approach to veteran patient care.