The VA May Soon Be Forced Into Medical Marijuana Research. Finally
Written by Gobi Moore on April 17, 2018
When it comes to the subject of medical weed research, or even whether it’s okay for a vet and physician to discuss medicating with herb, the Department of Veterans Affairs has a tendency of ducking action in favor of citing hazy policy, and vague restrictions.
A few recent examples: In December 2017, the VA announced new policy guidelines allowing patients to discuss their state-legal medical pot use with their doctors. But prior to that, it was already allowed, it just wasn’t widely broadcast — to care providers or patients — an issue Task & Purpose reported on previously.
As for what training physicians would get on medical pot now that they could discuss it with veteran patients; in a Jan. 17 email to T&P, the department cited a May 31, 2017 statement saying the VA could not prescribe cannabis, but made no mention of educating care providers on its state-legal use.
Then, there’s the back and forth (and back again) between House Democrats calling on then-Secretary David Shulkin to direct the VA to conduct cannabis research, or explain why the department could not back a proposal that has overwhelming support from military veterans and their families. Shulkin’s Dec. 21 response cited bureaucratic red tape, a lack of congressional authority, and cumbersome interagency coordination as barriers to research.
Which gets us to where we are now: A congressional Republican and a Democrat are introducing a bill that states the VA can conduct research into the efficacy of medical marijuana as a treatment for veterans diagnosed with chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions deemed appropriate by the secretary.
Put it another way: No more blaming red tape. If this bill passes, the VA can research pot.
Introduced April 17, the bipartisan VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 is being spearheaded by Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, Republican chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, and Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota, the panel’s ranking Democrat. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the top Democrat on the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, is expected to announce companion legislation, though it’s unclear whether the Senate bill will have similar bipartisan support.