The Updated Directive: A Reiteration of the Past
In a move that has sparked controversy and debate, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has recently updated its directive, continuing its policy of prohibiting doctors from recommending medical cannabis to veterans. Despite the legalization of hemp and the revised federal definition of marijuana, the VA remains steadfast in its stance.
The updated directive is largely consistent with the previous version released in 2017, which encouraged VA doctors to discuss veterans’ marijuana use. However, the directive explicitly states that VA health care providers are prohibited from recommending, making referrals to, or completing forms for veterans’ participation in state-approved marijuana programs.
The House Fights Back: Bipartisan Amendment for Cannabis Recommendations
In response to the VA’s stance, the House recently approved a bipartisan amendment to a spending bill that would allow VA doctors to recommend medical cannabis to military veterans. The Senate Appropriations Committee also passed the reform as part of its version of the appropriations legislation.
Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), the lead sponsor of the House amendment, expressed his belief that the VA’s updated directive is causing confusion and preventing veterans from accessing a proven treatment option. He remains confident that the bipartisan amendment will succeed in addressing this outdated rule.
The Veterans’ Perspective: Access to Medical Cannabis
The updated directive allows VA providers to discuss relevant clinical information regarding marijuana use with veterans who request information or report marijuana use. It also states that veterans must not be denied VA services solely because they are participating in a state-approved marijuana program or because they acknowledge the use of marijuana.
A recent survey of veterans who use cannabis found that they report improved quality of life and reduced use of certain prescription drugs, including opioids. This highlights the potential benefits of medical cannabis for veterans, further adding to the debate on the VA’s stance.
The Future of Cannabis in Veterans Affairs
While some had hoped the VA would modernize its marijuana policy under the Biden administration, the agency has continued to push back against congressional efforts to allow its doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations or mandate clinical trials into the efficacy of marijuana for various health conditions that commonly afflict veterans.
The VA’s stance on medical cannabis is a contentious issue that continues to divide lawmakers, healthcare providers, and veterans. As the debate rages on, the future of cannabis in Veterans Affairs remains uncertain.
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