Although cannabis is legal in two-thirds of the states, the VA still can’t prescribe it.
The vast majority of the country’s 18.2 million veterans supports the legalization of cannabis for medical use, but the Veterans Administration (VA) cannot prescribe it to vets dealing with pain, anxiety or PTSD. That’s because the plant is still illegal at the federal level, and the VA, as a Cabinet-level organization, is not permitted to flout federal laws.
But bipartisan attempts are being made on Capitol Hill to nudge the VA closer to its members. Lawmakers are pushing a raft of bills that will force the VA to clarify where it stands on medical cannabis for the benefit of veterans who want to use the drug. In the longer run, the cannabis industry hopes that the VA will embrace the drug and become an important ally in the battle for full legalization.
A few weeks ago, Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, a former Marine Corps officer, re-filed three bills in Congress that would force the VA to beef up its policy on medical cannabis, to conduct a federally funded survey into cannabis use among vets, and to train VA healthcare providers about the drug. The VA serves more than 9 million veterans, and it provides much more than just healthcare benefits: Former soldiers also receive disability compensation, education assistance, home loans and life insurance.
The federal prohibition of cannabis means that the VA’s current position on the drug reads more like an informational pamphlet than a policy. The organization hosts a single 400-word webpage entitled “VA and Marijuana: What Veterans need to know,” which states that cannabis is illegal because America’s Food and Drug Administration still classifies the plant as a Schedule One controlled substance.
The VA then reminds former soldiers of the main consequence of adhering to federal law: Its healthcare providers cannot prescribe or recommend cannabis or any products that contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD). It goes on to state that the VA will not deny benefits to veterans who participate in state cannabis programs and encourages veterans to disclose their cannabis use for treatment purposes.
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News