US VA Doctors No Longer (Officially) Silenced On Marijuana

US military veterans and medical cannabis
Image: tammyatWTI

A new directive from the USA’s Department of Veteran Affairs states VA doctors can now discuss marijuana with their patients.

Up until now, doctors have been banned from discussing cannabis – a ridiculous situation given a recent survey indicated 22% of veterans were using it to treat a physical or mental condition. While it was an open secret that some VA doctors did have these discussions and there were some loopholes, there were risks of repercussions for the practitioners – and veterans.

The new directive states:

“VHA providers and/or pharmacists discuss with the Veteran marijuana use, due to its clinical relevance to patient care, and discuss marijuana use with any Veterans requesting information about marijuana”.

While the directive doesn’t mention medical cannabis specifically, the wording provides plenty of wiggle room to allow for it.

However, providers and pharmacists will still not be able to register veterans in state-approved medical marijuana programs, nor prescribe it, and any discussions regarding marijuana must be entered into the patient’s record.

The directive also reminds VA practitioners that veterans in possession of marijuana while on VA premises places the veterans at risk of prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act.

The full text of the directive can be viewed here.

The news was welcomed by the American Legion, which has a 2.3 million-strong membership, as positive progress. As we reported last month, the American Legion adopted a resolution in August urging the U.S. Government to allow VA doctors to provide information on medicinal cannabis – but also to recommend it in states where it’s legal.

“This updated policy will help encourage veterans using medical cannabis to more openly and fully discuss their healthcare options with VA medical providers – with full reassurance that their VA benefits remain secure,” says part of a statement from the Legion.

The organisation has also continued to call for the removal of cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

A recent survey reported by the American Legion revealed 92 percent of veteran households support medical cannabis research and 83 percent believe the U.S. federal government should legalize it nationwide.

The most common use of marijuana among veterans is to manage the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).