Should the VA Advocate the Use of Medical Marijuana?


By Debbie Gregory.

Attitudes towards the use of medical marijuana have been undergoing rapid changes. It has been argued that medical marijuana can be used to treat or manage the symptoms of a variety of ailments that affect veterans, including chronic pain, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. It has also been thought that cannabis can be helpful in addressing the serious epidemic of veteran suicide.

The House and the Senate no longer see medical marijuana policy as a hot-button issue. Instead, medical marijuana has become a health care issue.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has voted in favor of legislation that would allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients in states where it is legal.

Sponsored by Sens. Steve Daines, R-Montana, and Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, the Veterans Equal Access Amendment allows veterans to discuss all options that are legally available in their state with their VA doctor.”

For veterans dealing with mental health and physical ailments, the opportunity to learn about marijuana treatment would be a game changer. While research about the impact of medical marijuana on mental health is almost non-existent, many believe it can reduce certain PTSD symptoms, including anxiety and flashbacks. Neuroscientists also believe that medical marijuana can assist with depression

While most doctors acknowledge that they would prescribe cannabis to their patients as needed, VA physicians have not been able to discuss the option.

The provision was inserted into the Military and Veterans Construction bill, which the upper chamber unanimously passed. Similar language was included in legislation introduced in the House of Representatives in February by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, but it has stalled in committee.

The VA concedes that some veterans use medical marijuana to relieve PTSD symptoms but questions its effectiveness and suggests the practice might actually be harmful.

Where do you sit on this hot-button issue? Do you think veterans should have access, and do you think it will help or hinder them?

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