Will VA Doctors Finally Be Able To Recommend Marijuana For Vets?

Health & Fitness
An overwhelming majority of U.S. military veterans and veteran caregivers support the legalization of marijuana for both medical purposes, according to a new national poll by Five Corner Strategies conducted on behalf of the American Legion and released on Nov. 2, 2017
Photo via Flickr/Creative Commons

In a 24-7 vote on July 13, lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment that would give Department of Veterans Affairs authority to recommend medical marijuana in states where it is legal for medicinal use.

The Senate amendment, part of the VA’s budget request for fiscal year 2018, would work by removing funding from the VA portion of the budget that is used to police VA doctors from recommending marijuana as a type of treatment and prevent veterans from participating in state-run medical marijuana treatments.

The legislation represents a marked change from current policy, which for years has prevented the VA from being able to recommend the use of marijuana for veterans with physical and mental health problems, despite increasing bipartisan support in Washington.

Federal law currently prohibits VA medical providers from providing recommendations or opinions regarding a veteran’s participation in state marijuana programs. Although the provision technically expired in 2016, as no new policy has been implemented, it still stands until Congress decides on a new law.

Despite popularity among the committee, the amendment’s future is up in the air. Last year, a similar provision gained traction in both the House and the Senate, but vanished from the final merged bill that became law.

But the proposal does have one particularly weighty supporter. In May, VA Secretary David Shulkin said in a White House press briefing that he would consider expanding the use of medical marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder, without changing federal law in the process.

“My opinion is, is that some of the states that have put in appropriate controls, there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful,” Shulkin told reporters during the press briefing. “We're interested in looking at that and learning from that. But until the time that federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful.”

Shulkin did note that states that have legalized the use of cannabis provide something of a loophole.

“We are acutely aware of the work that’s going on around the country, particularly in states that have legalized medical marijuana,” he told Task & Purpose. “And we are observing very closely work that’s being done that may be helping veterans, and we are open to any ideas and therapies that may be effective.”

Though not every congressman and senator agrees, the use of medical marijuana to help veterans has continued to gain popularity among lawmakers year after year. The Senate committee voted 20 to 10 in favor of the amendment last year, as did the House with 239 Congressman voting yes. Hopefully the amendment won’t mysteriously disappear from the 2018 budget like last year.

Task & Purpose reached out to several veteran service organization for statements on the amendment and will update this story as more information becomes available.


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The USS Eagle 56 was only five miles off the coast of Maine when it exploded.

The World War I-era patrol boat split in half, then slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. The Eagle 56 had been carrying a crew of 62. Rescuers pulled 13 survivors from the water that day. It was April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.

The U.S. Navy classified the disaster as an accident, attributing the sinking to a blast in the boiler room. In 2001, that ruling was changed to reflect the sinking as a deliberate act of war, perpetuated by German submarine U-853, a u-boat belonging to Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine.

Still, despite the Navy's effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding the sinking, the Eagle 56 lingered as a mystery. The ship had sunk relatively close to shore, but efforts to locate the wreck were futile for decades. No one could find the Eagle 56, a small patrol ship that had come so close to making it back home.

Then, a group of friends and amateur divers decided to try to find the wreck in 2014. After years of fruitless dives and intensive research, New England-based Nomad Exploration Team successfully located the Eagle 56 in June 2018.

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