VA status and Cannabis – What Veterans need to know

Puerto Rico as many other US states have approved the use of cannabis for medical and/or recreational use, this has been well received among people with clinical conditions on the island. Many veterans have expressed interest on participating in cannabis programs as well. Federal law classifies cannabis/marijuana – including all derivative products – as a Schedule One controlled substance. Making it illegal in the eyes of the federal government. The Department of VA is required to follow all federal laws including those regarding cannabis. As long as FDA classifies cannabis as schedule one or until a bill is passed to allow VA health care providers to recommend it or assist veterans to obtain it.

What's possible in current laws

It is possible to discuss your cannabis use with a VA provider or pharmacist, it can be documented in the progress notes, and considered in the development or modificationof the treatment plan. As with all clinical information, this is part of the confidential medical record and protected under patient privacy and confidetiality laws and regulations. If you are a veteran participating in a cannabis/marijuana program or you are considering being part of one, your benefits will not be denied because of cannabis use.

What's NOT possible with current laws

It is not possible to get a recommendation for cannabis, to complete paperwork/forms required for veterans to participate in state-approved cannabis programs or get a prescription for products containing Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Cannabidiol (CBD), or any other cannabinoids. VA pharmacies will not fill prescriptions and VA will not pay for your medical cannabis prescriptions from any source. You cannot take your prescription cannabis nor use it in any of the VA medical centers, locations and grounds. Remember that federal laws are enforced at those locations.

Veterans across US will be gathering in it’s capital on Memorial Day to not only honor our heroes, but to advocate for the legalization of cannabis. The veterans and advocates are taking part in the Memorial Day Veterans Rally DC hope to change the stigma that surrounds cannabis, the preferred term for marijuana among advocates, by arguing that this alternative medicine is already helping some vets treat issues like PTSD, chronic pain and depression — all without the use of dangerous & addictive prescription drugs like opioids.

This status can soon change, as a bill passed by Congress making the Department of Veterans affairs the first federal agency to conduct research into the potential benefits of medicinal cannabis. The lack lack of federal research has been one of the biggest issues in the debate over the potential benefits of legal cannabis as a medicine.

The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 was pushed with the support of veterans across US. This piece of legislation would help advance the understanding of the impacts medicinal cannabis usage and how it can improve the veterans lives as well as other people with health conditions.

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