Veterans Affairs Department Doubles Down on Medical Marijuana Opposition

Historically there has been a considerable level of bitterness on the US policy with regard to veterans and marijuana. Marijuana is the best substance on the market for dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a disorder which a large number of veterans are faced with. But not only are veterans not allowed to use marijuana, if they are found using the plant their other privileges and benefits can be taken away. Few groups have been treated as badly than US war veterans. Veterans are being openly discriminated against by the US government. While many eligible patients can simply acquiremedical marijuana if they have a certain illness, this is not the case for veterans. They can attain medical marijuana, but they will lose their other privileges. So, they have a choice of either getting money to eat or a natural treatment for their chronic illnesses.

The Double Down (Double Cross)

What is particularly damning about the Veterans Departments refusal to help the critically suffering patients they are supposed to represent is that they are misrepresenting the law. The website for the Veterans Affairs Department was recently updated to state:

“Veterans should know that federal law classifies marijuana – including all derivative products – as a Schedule One controlled substance. This makes it illegal in the eyes of the federal government. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is required to follow all federal laws including those regarding marijuana. As long as the Food and Drug Administration classifies marijuana as Schedule One VA health care providers may not recommend it or assist Veterans to obtain it.”

The second part of that statement is false. There is nothing precluding the Veterans Affairs Department from allowing its doctors to recommended medical cannabis. If this was the case then every doctors in the USA would throw their hands in the air and say they cannot make a recommendation because it is illegal at the Federal level despite being perfectly legal in the state(This has not actually stopped a number of doctors and organizations from trying to use this thin excuse when they are against marijuana for other purposes). The previous statement said that doctors may not prescribe marijuana, but this has been changed to VA doctors may not recommended marijuana. It is illegal for any doctor to prescribe marijuana. All they can do is give a recommendation for marijuana, because the prescription process is a federally controlled activity while marijuana is illegal at the Federal level. States have gotten around this issue by getting doctors to recommend it, and patients more often than not have to get a medical card or register with a marijuana authority of some kind before they can go to the medical dispensary. The VA could easily do the same if it was so inclined.

Lies upon Lies

Congressman Earl Blumenauer makes a good point when he points out that the VA does not seem to have any problem issuing its patients highly addictive opioids which have killed thousands of people. Trump declared opioids a national crisis and in 2015 opioids killed over 15,000 people. Unfortunately, there is something of rotten egg in the VA department. The VA secretary, David Shulkin, has taken a stance that would make Jeff Sessions proud, and has stated in a number of interviews and reports that marijuana is “starting to show some medical benefits” and has often repeated that it is outside of the scope of the VA to recommend marijuana due to Federal law. Two blatantly false statements are all that is needed to see that Shulkin does not have the interests of veterans in his mind, being either incredibly dense or incredibly corrupt (far more likely the latter). Saying that marijuana is starting to show some medical benefits is quite brazen given it is the most versatile and effective painkiller on the plant without any noticeable sides. There are hundreds of studies indicating its many benefits, far more than for opioids.

Technically, the internal policy of the VA prohibits the recommendation of marijuana. The directive states that the policy of the VA is “to prohibit VA providers from completing forms seeking recommendations or opinions regarding a Veteran’s participation in a State marijuana program”. This policy has been expired for over a year but is still in force until a new one comes in or it gets changed. Unfortunately, Shulkin does not seem overly eager to simply change the wording, instead preferring to sit back and say he is bound by the wording of the document which he could easily change.

Veterans to Suffer on

Over the years there have been efforts from many groups to change the stance of the VA on marijuana but all efforts have been blocked by Congress. The American Legion, a group consisting of over 2.4 million veterans, is the largest group for army vets. Recently they have been increasing the pressure on the Federal government to evolve on cannabis, but with little progress. After attempting to reach out to Shulkinon many occasions, it is obvious that he is staunchly anti-marijuana and will not lift a finger to help them achieve their aims. Despite the general popularity of the movement, marijuana for veterans is not likely. Congress has not shown any signs of budging and Shulkin is possibly under pressure from Sessions, who has taken a back-stage approach to marijuana prohibition given the level of opposition he encountered when he publicly stated his erroneous marijuana ideologies.