House Bill Would Permit VA Doctors to Use Medical Marijuana as Option for Patients

Thursday, November 27, 2014
Doctor consults with an Air Force vet at VA Medical Center (photo: Ron Agnir, AP)

A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress would free VA doctors treating veterans to prescribe medical marijuana for post traumatic stress and other disorders.

 

Currently, the policy of the Department of Veterans Affairs prohibits VA physicians under any circumstance from authorizing medical marijuana for patients. This position stems from the federal government’s classification of pot as a Schedule I drug, just like heroin and cocaine. In fact, federal law trumps state laws that permit medical marijuana use, even for veterans.

 

But Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) have teamed up on a bill, the Veterans Equal Access Act, which would permit VA doctors to recommend the drug for some patients.

 

“We should be allowing these wounded warriors access to the medicine that will help them survive and thrive, including medical marijuana, not treating them like criminals and forcing them into the shadows,” Blumenauer said in a statement.

 

As it is now, VA medical staff members aren’t even allowed to fill out paperwork that would allow a vet to enroll in a state marijuana program in jurisdictions where the drug is legal, according to The Washington Post.

 

If the bill becomes law, it could mean a big change in treatment options for a large segment of vets who suffer from PTSD. Blumenauer said more than 20% of the 2.8 million soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with PTSD and depression.

 

For nearly a million vets, prescription opioids are a primary pain remedy available through the VA healthcare system, which operates the largest network of hospitals and health clinics in the U.S. But those drugs come with the risk of addiction.

 

The legislation follows medical research conducted here and in other countries that show cannabis can help treat PTSD as well as pain.

-Noel Brinkerhoff

 

To Learn More:

New Bill Would Allow the VA to Recommend Medical Marijuana for Patients (by Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, Washington Post)

Bill Would Let Veterans get Medical Marijuana (by Courtney Robinson, WTSP 10 News)

More Veterans Press VA to Recognize Medical Marijuana as Treatment Option (by Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, Washington Post)

Federal Government Finally Funds Research that Explores Positive Uses of Marijuana (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Obama Administration Blocks FDA-Approved Study of Marijuana for Veterans (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

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