For years now, members of congress and anti-prohibitionists have been advocating for the Department of Veterans Affairs to address the issue of medical marijuana and its potential benefits for retired military.
Nevertheless, the Department has continued to turn a blind – or at least very blurry eye – on the matter, causing the continued suffering of tens of thousands of former military. From PTSD to anxiety, and depression, the use of medical marijuana has been shown to be incredibly valuable to our country’s war veterans, but the department that should be acting on their behalf and in their best interest has continued to drop the ball.
A newly proposed reform – The Veterans Equal Access Act – would allow physicians employed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to patients whom they think it would benefit if it is legal in their particular state.
Dropping The Ball
Inaction on behalf of the Department of Veterans Affairs is not a new phenomenon. We’ve seen time and time again that their lack of willingness to move forward toward medical cannabis reform has cost some veterans their livelihoods, and some, their lives.
According to Marijuana Moment, the Department “also recently made clear that it won’t provide support for treatment involving marijuana as part of a new grants program aimed at preventing veteran suicide.” Lives hanging in the balance are still not enough to dissuade VA from prohibitionist policies.
VA’s position on the matter has been a point of contention for veterans for many years. Advocates for veterans, as well as veteran service organizations, have been advocating for research on the applications of medical marijuana and its potential benefits for war vets to seemingly no avail.
In the “Dear Colleague” article published and distributed by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Brian Mast (R-FL), current VA policies were criticized.
“VA policy prevents VA physicians and care providers from any participation, including helping with the required paperwork or forms.”
Undeniably, this compels veterans to receive their medical cannabis advice outside of the VA system, which can disrupt the consistency of treatment, result in errors or holes in care, and necessitate veterans paying out of pocket for additional doctor visits.
Best Interests At Heart
Fundamentally, the letter, which proposes the new Act, is advocating for the best interests of American war vets. The Act would make it possible for VA providers to make suggestions or offer opinions on the potential benefits of marijuana use, and complete the paperwork that reflects those recommendations or opinions.
The Act would not allow physicians to prescribe marijuana or dispense marijuana in any capacity. “It simply allows them to candidly discuss medical cannabis and offer recommendations in the best interests of their patients.”
At its core, the newly proposed Act aims to eliminate, or at the very least, significantly lower the taboo surrounding the use of medical marijuana by veterans.
Currently, America’s war vets are hesitant to open up about their current or potential use of medical marijuana for fear that it will cause them to lose vital benefits that they receive through the VA.
It is vital that former military feel protected in their rights and in their access to certain resources and benefits. The Act would allow veterans to talk openly about their medical marijuana use, without risking their standing with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
American veterans are some of – if not the most – respected, celebrated, and revered citizens in this nation. Somehow, we’ve managed to give them a 10% discount at nearly every store they walk into, while simultaneously ignoring their real issues when it comes to both their physical and emotional wellbeing post-combat.
Continued reticence on behalf of the Department of Veterans Affairs has caused persistent suffering. Furthermore, the Department’s lack of action has forced war vets to seek medical help elsewhere, often leaving gaps in care plans.
The proposed Act would not allow VA physicians to prescribe medical marijuana, but instead to open a healthy dialogue on the matter so that our nation’s veterans can access quality, inclusive, and thorough treatment.
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