The issue of medical marijuana has caused political gridlock at the highest level as bipartisan lawmakers are pushing VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to end a ‘detrimental’ policy which bars VA doctors from recommending cannabis to veterans. The policy has been met with increasing criticism from both sides of the political isle as veterans have been denied access to a potentially efficacious alternative to traditional treatments.
1. Bipartisan Battle for Veterans’ Access to Medical Pot
The fight for increased access to medical marijuana for US federal veterans is a ever-growing cause championed by both Democrats and Republicans alike. With numerous studies backing the medical benefits of marijuana, the general consensus is that veterans ought to have access to the drug to manage and mitigate their physical and mental ailments from military service.
- Recently, a new bipartisan bill was proposed to make medical marijuana available to veterans as a replacement for opioid-based medications. This is a giant step forward from the current system, as only states where medical marijuana is legal can access the medication for their veteran citizens.
- Veterans in other states are often at the mercy of health insurance providers, and are unable to get the care they need and deserve. It’s been reported that research gathered from a number of studies points to marijuana being effective for treating PTSD, chronic pain, depression, and many other medical conditions.
It’s clear that federal veterans deserve to have access to the medical benefits of marijuana just like everyone else, and have the option to use the drug in place of potential more damaging opioid-based medications. As the issue becomes more politicized, hopefully a long-term and viable solution will arise from their bipartisan battle for improved healthcare.
2. VA Secretary Facing Pressure to Abandon ‘Detrimental’ Policy
Recently, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert Wilkie, has come under fire for a policy aimed at curtailing veterans’ access to certain medical benefits. Critics say the policy is unfairly restricting veterans from accessing life-saving treatments, and actively endangering the lives of those already vulnerable.
Veteran advocates and healthcare professionals are now calling on Wilkie to abandon the said policy, which they deem to be “detrimental” and “unjust”. Among the troubling implications of the policy are:
- Limitations to care: The policy drastically narrows veterans’ access to medical treatments, even forcing some to travel long distances for care.
- Discrimination: The rules disproportionately affect veterans who are disabled, elderly, or living in rural areas.
- Higher costs: Dismantling of the Affordable Care Act has caused medical bills for veterans to skyrocket.
Given the strong backlash, many are urging Wilkie and the VA to put veterans’ health and safety first and eliminate the policy. Supporters even hope to see new regulations that will support access to essential medical care.
3. Examining the Legal Implications of Marijuana Treatment for Veterans
As the legal status of marijuana treatments for medical purposes slowly become universally accepted, it is important that the necessary legal requirements are in place for veterans to make use of this service. Though recent federal legislation has enabled veterans in states with medical cannabis laws to seek and receive medical cannabis treatments, several legal nuances still need to be considered.
- Doctor-Patient Relationship: It is essential to have a formal doctor-patient relationship between the veteran and the prescribing doctor when seeking medical marijuana treatments. This helps ensure medical quality standards of care are met.
- Legally-Recognized Medical Cannabis Card: Most states that offer medical marijuana require a legally-recognized medical cannabis card for any patient seeking marijuana treatments, including veterans. Acquiring a medical card provides an added safeguard to help ensure veterans receive the highest quality care.
- Legally Protected Methods of Obtaining Cannabis: To ensure veterans equitably access medical cannabis, many states have made exceptions for those who qualify medically. This means veterans can only obtain marijuana from certain authorized sources, such as dispensaries.
4. Looking Ahead: What the Future of Medial Marijuana Access Might Look Like in the US
As acceptance for medicinal marijuana usage continues to rise throughout the country, access to the drug is beginning to break down barriers. It’s no secret that MJ use is now legal in some form in 33 states and the District of Columbia, and it’s looking increasingly likely that it will become a legal nationwide. Of course, this doesn’t mean it will be something available on demand for everyone, but rather regulated by the federal government.
- Telemedicine: A major development in the field has been the growth of telemedicine, with more and more health related companies and apps cropping up that allow people to get prescribed medications without having to go to appointments.
- Online dispensaries: This same concept of telemedicine could apply to the purchase of marijuana, allowing people to legally purchase from an online dispensary with a valid prescription.
It’s also likely that the number of cannabis clinics is going to keep increasing. With the data from all of these different sources feeding in, a realistic picture of the medicinal marijuana usage will start to form. More research, clinical trials, and availability of the drug should become more widespread, and thus the amount of access people have to the drug should increase. This could have a huge impact on the way medical marijuana is used in the US in the future.
As veterans and advocates across the country call for the VA to revisit their policy on medical marijuana, it remains to be seen whether it will meet the needs of these veterans. With bipartisan lawmakers pushing for change, the VA has the chance to truly make a difference in the lives of so many veterans who have dedicated their lives to serving this country.