By LeeWEpstein

December 24, 2019

Congress continues to kill the marijuana legislation that would allow the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to supply veterans marijuana as an alternative for prescription meds.

Every year, the cannabis advocacy community fights up to its neck in the trenches for the rights of veterans to use marijuana for medical purposes. You can always count on the fact that there will be at least one proposal debated in Congress to give the men and women who have served our country legitimate access to medical marijuana. And every year, Congress gives the green light to these measures, which has given a large majority of the American population the idea that the federal government is preventing veterans from using marijuana. Presumably, some believe that Uncle Sam is prepared to inflict cruel and unusual punishment on veterans who dare to get high.

Department of Veterans Affairs

But that is not entirely true. What is true is that Congress continues to kill marijuana laws (even those of a temporary nature) that would allow the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide Veterans with medical cannabis. This disturbs the part of the population that believes that veterans should have the opportunity to at least participate in medical marijuana programs in states where it is legal. Most compassionate people would share that sentiment.

But the fact is that the federal government is not preventing veterinarians from using this drug. These men and women are more than welcome to smoke all the weed they want, they just can’t get it from the VA, and they have to pay for it out of their pocket.

That’s true. No one is stopping veterans from using marijuana for medical purposes. They’re allowed to see a doctor outside the VA to get a recommendation for participation in their state’s program. Once they have the necessary documentation, they can go to a clinic and start making regular purchases. The VA even states on its website that this type of arrangement is more than acceptable. Veterans can also discuss medical marijuana with their VA doctor for advice if they wish.

“VA providers can discuss marijuana use with veterans as part of a comprehensive care plan and adjust treatment plans if necessary, and they do,” said the VA.

Marijuana for Veterans

And no, there is no penalty for veterans who choose to become independent in their quest for medical marijuana. No matter how much pot they smoke, they are welcome at NHQ for treatment, and they can always get prescription drugs. This is also stated on the VA website. 

“Veterans’ participation in state marijuana programs does not affect their eligibility for VA care and services,” says the agency.

But since marijuana is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government, the VA cannot prescribe medicinal cannabis to its patients. And that will likely be the case until Congress and the President agree on a bill that eliminates the nationwide ban on weed.

Veterans are indeed in the same boat as the rest of the medicinal marijuana patients across the United States. Access is not always easy for civilians either. Sometimes family doctors refuse to recommend medical marijuana to their patients, forcing them to seek approval from an outside physician. And since cannabis is not covered by any health insurance, everyone who participates in a medical marijuana program must pay for it out of their pocket.


So in reality, veterans are treated no differently than the rest of the country when it comes to the use of this drug. Maybe they should be, but they’re not. Of course, there have been cases where veterans have lost some of their prescription drug privileges (mainly pain relievers) because of marijuana use. But the decision to change the treatment plan is left to the discretion of VA doctors. It is not the agency’s policy to take drugs away from patients simply because they smoke a little pot.

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