Veterans are some of the most enthusiastic medical marijuana card holders in the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, when it comes to medical marijuana, they don’t always have support from the Veterans Administration, which oversees much of the healthcare and benefits veterans receive. What is the status of veterans and medical marijuana via the VA? Things are looking up, but there’s still a way to go before these important members of Virginia society get the full support they deserve at the federal level.
How Medical Marijuana Helps Veterans
As you may know, medical marijuana helps with a wide range of conditions from glaucoma to Alzheimer’s. With regards to veterans, it is particularly effective at addressing several medical conditions often experienced by vets, including stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain and PTSD.
Advocates for the veteran community have been calling for the VA to begin offering prescription medical marijuana to veterans. Unfortunately, the VA has been hesitant to begin prescribing this natural remedy. In California, legislators have made moves to actually compel the VA in the state to prescribe medical marijuana. No such legislation has been suggested in the Commonwealth as of this writing, however.
VA Resistance to Medical Marijuana
Why is the VA digging in its heels against this proven remedy for veterans? The usual defense is that there is a lack of FDA research into the efficacy of medical marijuana. As a federal agency, however, the FDA has its hands tied by the fact that cannabis is still illegal at the federal level and must be treated as a scheduled drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
There are signs, however, that the tide may be changing at the federal level. Recently, President Biden appointed a new commissioner to run the FDA, Robert Califf. Califf in the past has acknowledged the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana. The Administration has also begun some limited research into cannabis.
The FDA: Limited Approval of Medical Marijuana Applications
The FDA has approved some cannabis-derived products, as well. The agency has approved Epidiolex, used to treat seizures, Marinol and Cesamet, used to treat nausea and vomiting associated with cancer treatments, as well as Syndros for treating cancer and AIDS-associated anorexia. As with all medical marijuana products, these products are only available via a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider.
The Confusion of Some Veterans in Care
The discrepancies between Virginia law and federal law can cause complications in veteran healthcare. Some veterans, for example, are concerned that they cannot tell their VA doctors that they use medical marijuana. Official guidelines do state, however, that veterans can safely discuss their cannabis use with VA doctors without getting in trouble or losing benefits. This is a great relief for many veterans, and ensures that they can get the best quality of care.
Where Veterans Can Turn
Ideally, the VA will come around. As the evidence grows for how safe and impactful medical marijuana can be, chances are this federal entity will come through.
For now, veterans can still find the support they need with certified medical marijuana doctors in the Commonwealth. By contacting a certified physician, veterans can access a recommendation for medical marijuana use and then file for a medical marijuana card without having to go through the VA.
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