While veterans are not technically barred from access to Veterans Administration health services and programs for using medical marijuana, many other VA rules and regulations prevent access to the medicinal cannabis, especially for patients with limited mobility: the use or possession of marijuana is prohibited at all VA properties — no matter the form — and VA doctors may not prescribe medical marijuana or complete paperwork for state-approved marijuana programs.
And unlike Canada, where reimbursements for medical cannabis went from $400,000 to $20 million in just a few years for veterans, the VA will not pay for medical marijuana prescriptions from any source.
Despite all this, the VA does want folks to discuss marijuana use with their doctors and other providers. VA doctors and clinical staff will record marijuana use in the veterans’ VA medical record along with its impact on the veterans’ treatment plan.
And on the part of veterans, they are now more organized than ever, making the push for access themselves. Just last week the American Legion — which Politico called “one of the nation’s most conservative veterans’ groups” — called on President Trump to allow for marijuana research with vets.
Louis Celli, National Director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation for the American Legion, stressed the group is only advocating for research, but the group’s stance is still representative of a major cultural shift.
“We are not asking for it to be legalized,” Celli said. “There is overwhelming evidence that it has been beneficial for some vets. The difference is that it is not founded in federal research because it has been illegal.”
The organization has 2.4 million members, making it the largest U.S. veterans’ group — giving it major sway on The Hill: they’re approaching the administration through Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
We reached out to the experts to get their take on the push being made by veterans as of late.
“The voices of veterans are among the most influential in the growing debate about medical cannabis,” said Tom Angell, Chairman of Marijuana Majority. “It’s very, very hard for lawmakers to tell people who were injured serving our country that they deserve to be jailed for following their doctors’ recommendations on how to heal their war wounds.”
Marijuana Policy Project Director of Communications, Mason Tvert, said it’s hard for lawmakers to avoid or ignore the influx of activism on the issue.
“Lawmakers are receiving an increasing volume of correspondence from veterans, and their stories are very compelling,” he said. “Reports regarding medical marijuana benefiting veterans with PTSD are piling up and reaching the point at which they can no longer be ignored.”
At the local level, veterans are organizing on behalf of themselves. In groups like Grow For Vets and Weed for Warriors, they hope to have an impact in helping to save the more than 50 veterans who die each day from suicide and prescription drug overdose.
Veterans are provided with free hemp oil and flowers to help treat their various symptoms. The programs have all experienced rapid growth nationwide after starting in Northern California a few years back to the point that the groups are currently finding corporate sponsors from the cannabis industry starting to come on board.