With the Biden administration making groundbreaking changes across the spectrum, it comes with some surprises that the US Veterans Affairs Department (VA) would release an updated directive that continues the policy of blocking doctors from recommending medical marijuana to veterans who struggle with chronic pain and mental health issues. Although the Veterans Health Administration has long supported research into integrating cannabis into its treatment plans for veterans, the updated directive still presents a major barrier to veterans receiving the care they need and deserve.
1. Biden Administration Doubles Down on VA Marijuana Stance
The Biden administration has not shied away from echoing the recent statements about marijuana use by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Biden’s team has reaffirmed the VA’s stance on marijuana, which is that it is not currently an approved treatment, but that players in the VA are open to both researching and exploring the potential benefits to veterans.
The VA believes that the research should take place before veterans can be assured that marijuana as a treatment is safe and helpful. It has shown the same caution when it comes to the effects of marijuana on qualified veterans who want to use marijuana in their home state, where it is legal. The VA has mentioned that they may be open to considering marijuana as a valid treatment for veteran’s medical needs, but are waiting for research to come into play.
The VA has outlined the following points to clarify its stance on marijuana:
- VA doctors cannot provide veterans with marijuana or prescribe marijuana for medical use, even in states where marijuana is legal.
- VA healthcare providers cannot complete forms or register veteran’s for marijuana card use.
- VA providers are legally prohibited from completing paperwork and certifying it to qualify veterans for state-approved marijuana programs.
The Biden administration’s go-ahead with the VA’s stance towards marijuana is an advance on the issue, as it encourages further research on marijuana. If marijuana is proved to be a medically safe and beneficial for veterans, it could be a significant step forward in taking care of their needs.
2. VA Directive Refuses to Recommend Medical Marijuana to Veterans
Veterans Affairs (VA) authorities recently reviewed the use of medical marijuana as a possible treatment option for veterans. After a thorough assessment, they have decided to continue their policy of not recommending the use of marijuana on any medical grounds.
The main reason for this decision is that marijuana still is classified as a Schedule I drug according to The Controlled Substances Act. This means that it is not recognized to have beneficial effects, which is why the VA refuses to even consider it when reaching a medical decision. Additionally, the VA cannot dispense any drugs that have not gone through the approval process and been accepted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
This doesn’t mean the VA completely rejects veterans who want to use medical marijuana, however. They direct veterans to speak to individual providers about potential medical marijuana treatments for their conditions, as ultimately the decision is in the hands of the providers.
3. Veterans Denied Treatment Options Despite Growing Research for Pain Relief
Far too often, veterans are not made aware of the many effective treatments being used in the fight for pain relief. Many are denied access to these treatments, leaving them with options that are largely considered to be outdated and sometimes even ineffective. This kind of neglect of veterans suffering from physical and mental anguish is both irresponsible and severely unfair.
The good news is that research continues to uncover new, innovative forms of treatment for chronic pain, including new medications, therapies, and physical activities. With such a wealth of options now available, veterans should be given the opportunity to access the best treatments available, and to make use of the most accurate diagnoses. Unfortunately, many are not provided this opportunity. Veterans require equal access to the documented research out there in order to experience pain relief, and that access is something that they all too often have been denied.
- Veterans are often denied access to effective treatments for pain relief.
- The research community has made powerful strides in uncovering new treatments for chronic pain.
- Veterans should have equal access to these treatments.
4. Cannabis Controversy Stirs as VA Misses Out on Non-Addictive Benefits
Cannabis is a controversial topic that has both supporters and opponents in the US, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Veterans Affairs (VA) Department. Veterans in the US have long been advocating for easier access to medical cannabis, as they believe it has myriad health benefits to offer—but some believe the VA is not doing enough to provide access its potential, non-addictive benefits.
The veterans’ case is strong: Canadian studies have shown that medical cannabis can be able to help veterans with symptom relief, particularly in dealing with mental distress, anxiety symptoms, and bodily pain. Additionally, cannabis could be used for more severe conditions, especially if they are found to be helpful. And while federal laws in the US dictate that the VA cannot provide medical cannabis for its patients due to its federal status, some states have chosen to allow veterans access to it anyway.
- VA has been conservative in its use of medical cannabis
- Studies have shown many potential benefits to veterans
- Individual US states have opened access to veterans
Despite increased federal acceptance of medical marijuana across the US, we can’t ignore the Biden administration’s decision to continue VA policy that prohibits doctors from recommending medical marijuana for its veterans. This is a decision that would undoubtedly have a deep and lasting impact on countless veterans in need of relief from pain without the harmful effects of opiates. Perhaps this is an eye-opener and an issue that will be addressed with further discussions in the future.