Updated: Dec 17, 2019
Veterans have continued to advocate for the allowance of cannabis for pain management and easing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms which are the two conditions that are facing a large percentage of American veterans. In a National Institute of Health found that 66% of veterans struggle with pain. As per the VA, Afghanistan and Iraq veterans make up between 15% to 20% every year while Vietnam veterans diagnosed with PTSD peaked to 17%.
Due to cannabis being a Schedule 1 narcotic, research has been limited for its effectiveness and potential medical application. Through this issue alone medical professionals have not been able to recommend cannabis for anxiety, pain or PTSD.
Lack of Research
Sadly, we believe the VA is dependent on dangerous pharmaceutical drugs, in particular antidepressants and opioids as a way to handle health issues that veterans experience. Cannabis could ultimately be a helpful medicine for veterans if the federal government would eliminate cannabis prohibition.
Advocacy has grown from veterans for pain management and PTSD research into cannabis which affects a large number of veterans.
THC Living is pushing for more research into the effectiveness and effects of cannabis as a medicine. Many members of our team are veterans and spouses of veterans who have used cannabis to help with pain management and PTSD leading to the potential to assist veterans. Tens of thousands of veterans and many others are using cannabis leading to a higher quality of life.
Investigating the Department of Veteran Affairs site, “The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is required to follow federal laws…...as long as the Food and Drug Administration classifies marijuana as Schedule 1, VA healthcare providers may not recommend of assist veterans ...”
Overwhelming support for medical cannabis by veterans occurred through the American Legion Survey, at 93% of veterans surveyed supporting medical cannabis research. The Veterans of Foreign Wars also support further research.
Multiple agencies would need to be included the allowance for the VA to research cannabis like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the DEA, the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Health and Human Services and the National Institute of Health.
If you are a veteran who chooses to use cannabis for pain management and PTSD, there are five items to keep in mind:
Your VA Benefits Cannot Be Denied While Using Cannabis
As a veteran participating in state cannabis programs will not affect the eligibility for VA benefits or services. VA providers will discuss the use of medical cannabis with veterans as part of the overall care planning accordingly will complement current treatment plans.
Veterans Using Cannabis Could Affect VA Treatment Plan
Veterans who do use cannabis may not have benefits denied but their treatment plans could be altered depending on what state a veteran is located. Staff members of the VA will not be allowed to recommend cannabis for any condition therefore leading to alterations of a veteran’s treatment plan.
In many cases, especially in medical cannabis states have led doctors to wean patients off scheduled pharmaceuticals including opioids with some stopping the supply altogether. Some doctors have given negative responses to cannabis use with a veteran patient while others have been positive and are understanding of why. Do not get angry with the doctors that are negative as they are being mandated by the Federal Government and approaching cannabis as a Schedule 1 narcotic.
Those that provide negative responses on cannabis use tend to be hostile as a sign of addictive tendencies and enforce a restriction to other narcotics.
VA Will Not Provide Recommendations for Cannabis
In states like Rhode Island and Illinois, access to medical cannabis requires a patient to get a recommendation from a doctor. As per the Veteran’s Administration’s website, VA medical professionals will not complete any paperwork for the recommendation of cannabis in state-approved medical cannabis programs.
VA pharmacies will also not be able to provide any cannabis out of their locations.
VA Will Not Pay for the Costs of a Recommendation or Products
Medical cannabis can be a costly endeavor for VA patients in much medical cannabis approved states. The costs of medical cannabis in comparison to VA Benefits only which only require some to pay between $8 to $10 per month versus medical cannabis with an out of pocket expense from $200 to $350 per ounce.
Veterans Are Not Allowed to Bring Cannabis on VA Property Anywhere
Cannabis use could be legal in some states but still remains illegal on the federal property including VA grounds, locations, and medical centers. Federal Law takes the lead on federal properties while state law is enacted on state property. If a veteran brings marijuana on federal property, it is considered violating the law which includes adult-use states like Michigan and Massachusetts.
Employed by the VA Could Lead to Regular Drug Testing
If a veteran is employed by the VA, the staff member is subject to regular drug testing under the terms of employment. Even if a VA employee follows the rules and regulations of a state medical cannabis program they can still be disciplined or fired. Veterans who have jobs in the cannabis industry at state-licensed facilities could still be disqualified for gun permits and VA home loans.
A bill that allows veterans to possess and legally use medical marijuana as well as being able to discuss the use of cannabis with VA doctors.