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Is the VA Finally Considering Medical Marijuana for Veterans?

A change in language on the VA’s website suggests that the department is finally open to investigating the efficacy of medical marijuana.

New language on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) website suggests that the federal agency could finally be open to studying whether medical marijuana could be beneficial for Veterans.

Spotted originally by Tom Angell of Marijuana Moment, the VA’s Office of Research & Development website page has been updated to include new verbiage on the potential of investigating the benefits of medical marijuana for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The website now addresses earlier research on medical marijuana, saying that a 2017 “literature review found limited evidence that marijuana use might alleviate neuropathic pain in some patients, and that it might reduce spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, but found insufficient evidence to assess the effects of marijuana on PTSD.

“VA is not currently able to prescribe medical marijuana to Veterans,” the website continues, “but can look at marijuana as an option for treating Veterans.”

The new stance directly conflicts with a recent letter from VA Secretary David Shulkin, in which he announced the agency cannot research marijuana since it is classified as a Schedule I substance under federal law.

Even in the 29 states that have legalized medical marijuana, Veterans are restricted from obtaining medical marijuana through recommendations by VA physicians.

The VA did issue a new policy in December that encourages its physicians to “discuss with the Veteran marijuana use, due to its clinical relevance to patient care, and discuss marijuana use with any Veterans requesting information about marijuana.”

The VA’s official policy, however, is that its “providers are prohibited from recommending, making referrals to or completing paperwork for Veteran participation in State marijuana programs.”

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Growing Pressure on the VA

Shulkin and the VA have been under increasing pressure to research medical marijuana as a potential treatment option for Veterans. A recent poll found that more than 9 of 10 military Veterans want more research into the medical benefits of marijuana.

The American Legion, the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, recently adopted a resolution urging federal officials to expand legal access to medical marijuana to Veterans. The organization, which believes marijuana may benefit veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI), has also publicly called for medical cannabis policy changes several times in the past, specifically urging the rescheduling of marijuana so that it can be more easily studied.

Lawmakers on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs have pushed the Donald Trump administration to allow research into medical marijuana. Studies indicate that medical marijuana can reduce the intake of opioids, which cause about double the number of accidental fatal overdoses in veterans than non-veterans.

Congress did pass a defense bill in December that may open the door for medical marijuana access to active service members. HR-2810, signed into law by Trump on December 12, gives the Department of Defense the authority to approve drugs and medical devices to members of the armed forces, rather than the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Learn More about Medical Marijuana

Learn about what researchers have already discovered about marijuana’s potential benefits for PTSD and TBI by visiting our education page. You can keep up with the latest developments in the cannabis industry through our news page.

Post by Eve Ripley

Eve is a writer specializing in cannabis education and editorials related to cannabis industry news.
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