V.A. physicians still can’t prescribe cannabis, but they’re encouraged to discuss medical mj with veterans.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has made a significant change to its policy on medical marijuana. While doctors still cannot prescribe or recommend cannabis, they can and are even encouraged discuss it with veterans in states where weed is legal.
While the policy change is a positive step for advocates and veterans seeking relief for a variety of ailments, the V.A. stands by its position that “to comply with federal laws such as the Controlled Substances Act…providers are prohibited from completing forms or registering veterans for participation in a state-approved marijuana program.”
Technically, V.A. doctors probably can recommend medical marijuana without violating federal law. A 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision stated V.A. doctors may recommend medical marijuana so long as they do not provide it to patients. Nevertheless, the V.A. maintains an internal policy prohibiting recommendations of the Schedule 1 substance, most likely in order to avoid conflicts with policies at federal enforcement agencies.
Advocates were pleased to hear about the V.A.’s relaxed stance.
“This change in policy is a victory for veterans because it encourages open and honest conversations between V.A. doctors and veterans about cannabis use,” said Steph Sherer, executive director for Americans for Safe Access. “The men and women who put their lives on the line for our country deserve the best care and a wide variety of treatments, including medical cannabis to help them recover from the injuries of war. With veterans suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, and a variety of other ailments, cannabis cannot be left out of the discussion as a safe and effective treatment.
“We would like to see the V.A. continue to make steps forward that will improve access to and research in medical cannabis for veterans,” she added.
The V.A. documents outlining the policy change are embedded below.