Veterans and Medical Cannabis
Over the last several months, I have seen that veterans of our armed forces in my regular practice as well as for consultation for medical cannabis have been hearing conflicting information from the VA as well as some of the medical "providers" treating them there. Some have been told they are forbidden from using medical cannabis. They will lose benefits if they use medical cannabis. The VA won't treat them if they use medical cannabis...The VA policy is summarized below:
•Veterans will not be denied VA benefits because of marijuana use.
•Veterans are encouraged to discuss marijuana use with their VA providers.
•VA health care providers will record marijuana use in the Veteran's VA medical record in order to have the information available in treatment planning. As with all clinical information, this is part of the confidential medical record and protected under patient privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations.
•VA clinicians may not recommend medical marijuana.
•VA clinicians may only prescribe medications that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for medical use. At present most products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), or other cannabinoids are not approved for this purpose by the FDA.
•VA clinicians may not complete paperwork/forms required for Veteran patients to participate in state-approved marijuana programs.
•VA pharmacies may not fill prescriptions for medical marijuana.
•VA will not pay for medical marijuana prescriptions from any source.
•VA scientists may conduct research on marijuana benefits and risks, and potential for abuse, under regulatory approval.
•The use or possession of marijuana is prohibited at all VA medical centers, locations and grounds. When you are on VA grounds it is federal law that is in force, not the laws of the state.
•Veterans who are VA employees are subject to drug testing under the terms of employment.
Veterans suffer from many conditions which can be treated safely and successfully with medical cannabis. Don't let misinformed people at the VA tell you that it is not an option because of regulations. If you are a veteran considering medical cannabis, find a physician outside of the VA who will help you get the best results you can achieve in the treatment of your problems. That may include medical cannabis.
The VA policy is available here:
Brian Nichol MD