Government and Regulations

Lawmakers Urge VA to Reform Medical Marijuana Rules

VA healthcare providers caught between a federal prohibition and more permissive state laws on medical marijuana


In a letter addressed to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, the group—led by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Steve Daines (R-MT), as well as Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dina Titus (D-NV), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)—asked for the VA to reform its stance on medical marijuana, noting that this policy limits physicians' ability to effectively treat their patients.

The law, VHA Directive 2011-004, expired on January 31. The law also discouraged veterans from having discussions on cannabis treatment with their physicians for fear of losing benefits.

“When veterans walk into a VA facility and talk with their doctor, they can’t discuss all of the options available to them that they could discuss at a non-VA facility next door,” Daines said in the letter. “Current VA policy is not only a clear violation of states’ 10th Amendment rights—it’s a violation of our veterans’ 1st Amendment rights to talk openly and freely with their doctors. Veterans shouldn’t be discriminated against just because they’re seeking the care they deserve at VA facilities.”

Twenty-one politicians signed the letter, which has also gained praise from the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit organization committed to marijuana policy reform in the U.S., according to Yahoo News.

Attention was drawn to the issue by the recent story of Raymond Schwab, a Kansas veteran and VA employee, who has lost custody of 5 of his 6 children for alleged endangerment stemming from his prescription for cannabis from the neighboring state of Colorado. “There’s still a stigma against parents who use medical marijuana,” Jennifer Ani, a family law attorney, told The Guardian. “As much as marijuana is a moving target throughout the nation, with Child Protective Services it’s even more so.”

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