On Wednesday, the relatively new head of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) informed reporters, if medicinal marijuana is found to be beneficial for America’s veterans – “he wouldn’t be opposed to one day including it in their health care plans.”
According to Vice News, VA Secretary David Shulkin is open to discussing and debating the scientific evidence that validates the efficacy of medical marijuana; “I believe that everything that could help veterans should be debated by Congress and by medical experts.”
Prompted to respond to a question posed by the American Legion earlier this month, Shulkin explained to reporters, “If there is compelling evidence that this is helpful, I hope that people take a look at that and come up with the right decision. And then we will implement that.”
Uttered during a White House press briefing, Shulkin’s comments addressed the multitude of issues faced by the Department of Veteran Affairs, “which provides healthcare to 9 million veterans.”
Probably not on board with the new secretary’s assessment, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has vigorously opposed any and all use of marijuana, implying medicinal cannabis has been “hyped,” and calling the existing scientific evidence “dubious.”
Hyped or not, the new VA boss suggested the Department will now look into studying what affects medicinal cannabis is having on veterans in states where it is legal.
Currently classified as a Schedule I narcotic, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) missed an important opportunity to reclassify marijuana in 2016. Labeled a drug with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medicinal value within the Controlled Substance Act, those hoping to conduct research must first gain DEA approval, which is no small task.
Addressing one of President Trump’s primary campaign promises – revamping the VA – Shulkin’s proposals will need to be addressed soon if his measures are to be passed this fall by the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs.
Currently, those vets who choose to participate in state-sanctioned marijuana programs should be aware of the following VA rules:
- Vets who participate in state-approved medical marijuana programs will not be denied access to VA healthcare.
- The use or possession of marijuana is prohibited at all VA medical centers, locations and grounds.
- VA clinicians may not prescribe medical marijuana.
- VA clinicians may not complete paperwork/forms required for Veteran patients to participate in state-approved marijuana programs.
- VA pharmacies will not fill prescriptions for medical marijuana.
- VA will not pay for medical marijuana prescriptions from any source.
- Veterans are encouraged to discuss marijuana use with their VA providers.
- VA doctors and clinical teams may advise Veterans who use marijuana of the drug’s impact on other aspects of the Veterans’ care such as pain management, PTSD or substance use disorder treatment.
- VA doctors and clinical staff will record marijuana use in the Veterans VA medical record along with its impact on the Veterans treatment plan.
- Veterans who are VA employees are subject to drug testing under the terms of employment.
When asked for his thoughts on the heated topic, the physician/secretary noted, “My opinion is that some of the states that have put in appropriate controls, there may be some evidence this [medical marijuana] is beginning to be helpful.”