The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced that it will not prevent veterans from using cannabis in states with medical cannabis laws. Veterans had sought this policy clarification for several years.
The Veterans Health Directive offers guidance on the use and access to medical cannabis for veteran patients in the 14 states with medical cannabis programs. Although VA doctors still may not recommend cannabis for treatment (because it remains a Schedule 1 narcotic under federal law), patients under VA care will be able to receive other doctors’ recommendations for cannabis and continue with their VA healthcare. Previously, patients in medical cannabis states could have been refused pain medications if they were using cannabis for therapeutic purposes with the recommendation of a non-VA doctor.
Pain management appropriately is a high priority in the VA. In the past, veterans were subjected to repeated drug testing and were denied pain medication if they tested positive for cannabis. Now, with the VA’s support, veterans can work with their doctors to create a pain control program designed individually for each veteran. No longer will they be prosecuted or denied treatment based on cannabis use.