There has always been some disconnect between veterans and medical marijuana.
Although there has been plenty of evidence to suggest cannabis would be beneficial to veterans for a wide array of ailments, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been reluctant to allow their doctors to formally recommend it as a treatment option. However, as the VA rolls out a new medical marijuana policy tor vets, it appears doctors are now permitted to at least discuss potential use with their patients.
A New Medical Marijuana Policy For Vets
No, VA doctors are still not permitted to recommend medicinal cannabis to their veteran patrons. However, under the new guidelines, doctors can discuss the possibility with their patients, who can then get a formal recommendation from another doctor.
Essentially, the VA is saying it will not be responsible for providing veterans with medical marijuana, but it won’t disallow patients from getting medical pot from private practitioners.
“Veterans must not be denied VHA services solely because they are participating in State-approved marijuana programs,” the new policy states.
However, the policy continues the VA’s longstanding “prohibition on recommending, making referrals to or completing forms and registering Veterans for participation in State-approved marijuana programs.”
Under the new set of guidelines, doctors are also required to closely monitor and record their patients’ use of medical marijuana.
“Clinical staff may discuss with Veterans relevant clinical information regarding marijuana and when this is discussed it must be documented in the Veteran’s medical record,” the policy, which was originally reported on by Forbes, states. “Providers need to make decisions to modify treatment plans based on marijuana use on a case-by-case basis, such decisions need to be made in partnership with the Veteran and must be based on concerns regarding Veteran health and safety.”
Final Hit: VA Rolls Out New Medical Marijuana Policy For Vets
While the new policy urges VA doctors 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 department claims to still be in compliance with federal law, which still considers cannabis a Schedule I narcotic.
V.A. Secretary David Shulkin reiterated as much during a White House briefing back in May.
“Until time the federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful,” he said.
However, the VA’s interpretation of the country’s medical marijuana laws could be considered misguided.
According to a 2003 Supreme Court ruling, doctors own the First Amendment right to recommend medical cannabis to patients, as long as they don’t actually give their patients the cannabis themselves. Under the current federal law, doctors are not permitted to prescribe patients marijuana like other drugs, but they are allowed to provide recommendations that allows patients to purchase it themselves at medical dispensaries.
So while Shulkin and the rest of the VA may cite federal law for their staunch policy, in reality, it’s their own doing. The brand new policy is set to run through the end of 2022. Hopefully, by then, veterans will have an even easier time getting their hands on the plant. But for now, this is a step in the right direction.