MAY 31, 2018 8:30 AM PDT

Lawmakers Approve VA Healthcare Provision Allowing VA to Research Medical Cannabis for Veterans

WRITTEN BY: Mauri Brueggeman

In the past year there’s been more individuals associated with the military, either having served or representing servicemen or women, who have spoken out about the benefits of medical cannabis for veterans.  According to the Pew Research Center, there were around 20.4 million US veterans in 2016.  Military veterans have increasing rates of particular debilitating medical concerns and there are perceived and actual barriers to treatment based on stances taken by the Veteran’s Health Administration. 

Medical cannabis has been shown to produce positive effects for pain, mental health concerns including post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety, reducing opioid and benzodiazepine use, traumatic brain injury, and phantom limb pain.  Individual state medical cannabis programs and laws have made cannabis available to patients for over 15 years upon the recommendation by an approved physician, however the Veteran’s Administration (VA) has not historically supported those recommendations.  If veterans used medical marijuana, as recommended by a physician outside of the VA health system, those veterans were denied access to VHA services.  That changed in 2011 under the VHA Directive 2011-004; there is, as yet, current resistance by the VA toward medical cannabis use for a variety of reasons, however.

Cannabis is still a Schedule I drug, as classified by the U.S. Controlled Substances Act.  It is illegal at the federal level in the U.S. The VHA physicians cannot recommend medical cannabis at this time because of the complications surrounding federal law and the VA’s stance on this issue. 

Just in the last few months, legislators have gotten involved; a Veteran’s Affairs Subcommittee met to discuss medical cannabis use in April and this month, the group voted with unanimous support to advance a VA healthcare overhaul which included a provision for the VA to research medical marijuana use legally for treating veterans and their medical conditions.  According to VA officials, the federal laws have prohibited exploration of this topic in therapeutic approaches offered to veterans seeking care; lawmakers want this provision to open doors to the VA to gather data on whether this drug, or parts of the plant including cannabinoids that do not induce a psychoactive state, could be medically beneficial for veterans.

Sources: Military Times, Veterans Cannabis Project, Americans for Safe Access,

About the Author
  • Mauri S. Brueggeman is a Medical Laboratory Scientist and Educator with a background in Cytogenetics and a Masters in Education from the University of Minnesota. She has worked in the clinical laboratory, taught at the University of Minnesota, and been in post secondary healthcare education administration. She is passionate about advances and leadership in science, medicine, and education.
You May Also Like
OCT 08, 2019
Cannabis Sciences
OCT 08, 2019
End of Life Cannabis Bill Passes California Legislature
The legal medical use of cannabis varies from state to state. A new bill in California would require hospitals to allow cannabis use by terminal patients....
NOV 05, 2019
Cannabis Sciences
NOV 05, 2019
Single Exposure to CBD & THC Disrupts Embryonic Development
It only takes one incidence of cannabinoid exposure during the first month of pregnancy to yield detrimental effects on a developing embryo. New research r...
NOV 12, 2019
Cannabis Sciences
NOV 12, 2019
Women Turn to Cannabis for Endometriosis Relief
Pharmaceutical drugs aren’t doing the job for women with endometriosis pain, and cannabis seems to be an exceedingly popular alternative. As a chroni...
JAN 31, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 31, 2020
Medicinal Marijuana May Not Aid Sleep Problems Long Term
A new study published in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care suggests that medical marijuana may not aid sleep problems resulting from chronic p...
FEB 28, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
FEB 28, 2020
Vaping Harms Microbiome, Increases Infection and Inflammation
Researchers have found that vaping e-cigarettes may change the composition of the mouth’s microbiome, something that leads to higher risks of inflamm...
MAR 12, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
MAR 12, 2020
In New Jersey, Medical Marijuana Patients Can't Be Fired for Drug Tests
Thirty-three states, Washington D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands now have a comprehensive, publicly available medical marijuana program....
Loading Comments...