Drug Law

Veterans Who Rely on VA for Health Care Can't Get Medical Marijuana

| by Marijuana Policy Project

By Mike Meno

A story out of New Mexico yesterday sheds light on the dilemma facing many veterans who could benefit from medical marijuana and rely solely on the Department of Veterans Affairs for their health care.

Taking guidance from the DEA, the VA does not allow its doctors to recommend medical marijuana. Those who do will face civil and criminal penalties, in addition to the loss of their license. (Veterans can still try to obtain a recommendation from an outside physician.)

This policy is unchanged in states where medical marijuana is legal, such as New Mexico, where the most common affliction of those enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program is post-traumatic stress disorder—something experienced by one in five returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to 2008 study.

As readers of this blog are well aware, there’s been a great deal of research and patient testimony showing medical marijuana to be effective at relieving the effects of PTSD.

But rather than help veterans access such safe and effective treatment, the VA’s current policy, according to one veteran, has forced many sufferers of PTSD to rely on more addictive prescription drugs, or self-medication with alcohol and other dangerous substances.

Is this really how we want to treat the veterans of our armed services?