A Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) letter made public Tuesday made clear that the division wouldn’t take a proactive stance on the worth of medical marijuana within the United States. This is simply the newest in a seemingly endless story between state-legal packages and federal regulation.
Though the VA has by no means been a bastion of hope on the medical marijuana entrance, many believed the division would come round and see the sunshine following expanded state-level legalization across the United States. This shouldn’t be the case.
A letter from VA Secretary David Shulkin to U.S. House Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) from late December was made public Tuesday, detailing the irritating methods through which the VA would skirt the duty of discovering a non-addictive various to opioids.
“VA is committed to research and developing effective ways to help veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain conditions,” Shulkin penned to Walz. “However, federal law restricts VA’s ability to conduct research involving medical marijuana, or to refer veterans to such research projects.”
Though the VA does permit its docs some leeway with respect to discussing medical marijuana with their veteran sufferers, the healthcare big cemented that it’ll not conduct any analysis on hashish as a potential therapeutic aid to numerous troopers who need an alternate to opioid painkillers, preferring to cling to the drained argument that they need to abide by federal regulation and the archaic Controlled Substances Act. This additionally shouldn’t be the case.
A 2003 ruling gave the VA MMJ leeway
A ruling on the federal degree all the best way again in 2003 declared that docs in states with authorized entry to marijuana couldn’t solely talk about marijuana with their sufferers with out worry of prosecution or different recourse however might additionally present oral or written suggestions — an entire contradiction of what Secretary Shulkin has expressed up to now.
Then, after receiving monumental quantities of backlash from lawmakers and veterans alike, Secretary Shulkin “clarified” his stance at a Veterans’ Affairs committee listening to Wednesday, only a day after admonishing hashish analysis.
“The VA has done research on marijuana but it has not been dispensing marijuana and testing its impact,” defined Shulkin to the committee. “It has been observational data analysis. The VA can do research on marijuana, but I said that we are restricted because it is a Class 1 substance, so we have to go through multiple agencies and it is very challenging to work our way through that process. We do have the ability to do it and I have said I am in favor of exploring anything that will help our veterans and relieve some of their sufferings.”
Shulkin once more blamed Congress for the shortage of VA medical marijuana analysis, including, “If Congress made it easier to go through the process, it would probably happen faster.”
Advocates fill within the gaps for vets
Marijuana.com caught up with Seth Smith, the director of communications and authorities affairs for SC Veterans Alliance (SCVA), a corporation that cultivates high-quality hashish to provide their bustling retail store in Santa Cruz and philanthropic efforts to help veterans in methods the VA merely won’t.
We requested Smith concerning the VA’s refusal to conduct significant analysis on marijuana, to which he replied, “They could do whatever they want with cannabis as a healthcare institution unto themselves that does rely on federal funding, and they absolutely have more flexibility than the secretary would have you think.”
SCVA picks up the slack of the VA, holding month-to-month conferences as half of their Veteran Compassion Program, which veterans can attend to study medical marijuana and obtain entry to free drugs.
“Upwards of 80 percent of veterans are diagnosed with chronic pain and they’re being prescribed opioid painkillers by the VA,” stated Smith, who served within the US Navy for six years as a cryptologic interpreter and airborne mission supervisor. “This is a huge issue in the veteran community.”
According to Smith, many veterans are reluctant to take part within the state’s newly modified medical marijuana program for worry of dropping their VA advantages once they present up in some database of medical marijuana sufferers. SCVA serves between 750 and 800 veterans, making up almost a 3rd of their affected person base.
The VA’s new medical marijuana directive states, “Veterans must not be denied VHA services solely because they are participating in State-approved marijuana programs,” however vets have their doubts.
“Federal officials have said this won’t be the case in states where cannabis is legal but I’m not sure veterans believe that. These veterans will continue having to operate in the shadows. A lot of VA doctors, especially younger doctors, would be more than happy to discuss medical marijuana as an option with their Veteran patients, but their hands are tied because of the VA administration’s policies,” Smith stated. “The VA is refusing to engage in any research on the potential benefits of cannabis and it is a tragedy. We have 22 veterans a day committing suicide and the overwhelming majority of them are middle-aged, 55-years-old and up. We know that the fastest growing group of cannabis users are the baby boomers, those same folks.”
What will it take to create a change within the VA?
“I feel we’d like all of the opposite veteran organizations as on board with medical marijuana because the American Legion has been, Smith defined.
In September, the American Legion, the most important veterans group within the nation, chastised the VA for its refusal to help the primary FDA-approved research of marijuana’s medical efficacy within the remedy of PTSD.
“Most of the congressmen and women who control how this issue will move in the near future are from states where cannabis is not readily available. As more and more states legalize medical marijuana, we will hit a critical mass where it can no longer be avoided. This year, we could see another half-dozen states legalize medical cannabis, and that would be huge as it would get us nearly to a de facto constitutional amendment with over two-thirds of the states having reformed their cannabis laws. We need that momentum to continue for at least a few more years.”
Even with Secretary Shulkin’s obvious 180-degree flip on medical marijuana analysis in lower than a day, it stays to be seen if one of the most important healthcare establishments in a rustic the place the bulk of residents have authorized entry to medical marijuana will do its half to finish the opioid epidemic.