News, Politics

A Veteran’s Guide to Accessing Cannabis Without Losing VA Benefits

October 11, 2019 02:12 pm ET
A Veteran’s Guide to Accessing Cannabis Without Losing VA Benefits

Veterans in the United States have sought treatment for many reasons since being back from war. One option that has become increasingly popular has been the use of cannabis and CBD. These options have been used to treat PTSD, depression, anxiety and many other disorders that come from the trauma of war. The problem is, even though over half the country has legalized the use of medical marijuana, the VA has banned any substance that is federally classified as a schedule one controlled substance, which includes cannabis. As the therapy treatment continues to become more popular, veterans struggle to figure out how to access it without losing any of their veteran’s benefits.

The Policies at The Dept. of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs has released some information on the VA’s policy of marijuana usage/ consultation. The first thing to know is that veterans CANNOT be denied their benefits because of marijuana use. In fact, veterans are encouraged to discuss any curiosity with their VA provider. The conversation will be recorded and saved for treatment planning, but there are limitations to what the provider can do with that information.

VA providers and clinicians may not recommend marijuana use, prescribe anything that has not been approved by the FDA (most CBD and THC products are not). They also cannot fill out any paperwork that would guide them to access marijuana in states where recreational use is legal. Other legalities the department warns of is the prohibition of the use or possession of medical marijuana on VA grounds. Finally, veterans who also work for the VA can be drug tested under the terms of employment.

Bills That Aim to Change Veterans Access to Cannabis

Earlier this year, Congress was presented with eight VA health-related proposals, three of which related to marijuana use research. Unfortunately, because cannabis is federally illegal, the Department of Veteran Affairs was forced to oppose these bills.

The first bill, the Veterans Equal Access Act, H.R. 1647, presented by Rep. Earl Blumenauer would allow VA providers the ability to recommend marijuana and fill out paperwork to allow access to veterans in states where medical use is legal. Rep. Lou Correa proposed the second bill: the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act, H.R. 712. This would allow for large-scale research on the effects of marijuana on war-related conditions such as PTSD.

“It’s time to do research. It’s time for veterans to know what cannabis is good for and what cannabis is not good for,” Correa said.

The last bill in this package is the Veterans Cannabis Use for Safe Healing Act, H.R. 2192. This bill, presented by Rep. Gregory Steube, would protect veterans from losing any benefits if they participated in a state medical marijuana program. These proposals have all come with some backlash due to federal law. Any VA doctors who recommend medical marijuana will face criminal prosecution, according to DEA guidance. VA scientists conduct research on cannabis use, however, with regulatory approval.

Veterans can rest easy knowing that we’re at least heading in the right direction. The most important thing to remember is the VA cannot deny veteran benefits to those who have used medical marijuana. The VA proves to be progressing towards a laxer marijuana policy as these measures being pushed forward, and the open notice the Department of Veteran Affairs has provided to the public. The only way the department will ever publicly support the use of cannabis as a treatment option is if the federal government decriminalized the drug, which will probably not happen for a while. Either way, the department of veteran affairs continues to offer a fair opportunity for veterans to explore their options for treatment. In the meantime, Veriheal can help military veterans gain access to cannabis by approving them for their medical marijuana card. The process is quick, simple, and discreet. Contact Veriheal and begin the road to treatment today.

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