It’s Almost Legal for a V.A. Doctor to Talk to a Veteran About Weed

For this year, at least, Congress will not pay to prosecute them.

Congress on Thursday gave veterans an avenue to discuss medical marijuana as a treatment option with their Veterans Affairs doctors in states where medical marijuana is legal—without actually giving doctors or vets the right to do so.

This move toward commonsense practice was grafted onto the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and voted up in the House of Representatives by a 233 to 189 margin. The Senate voted 89 to 8 to pass its own version of the amendment, as sponsored by senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

The amendment takes a roundabout way of permitting VA physicians to chat about weed with ex-military patients: Rather than eliminating prohibitions against VA doctors engaging in a considered discussion about medical marijuana with their patients, the appropriations bill merely prohibits the Veterans Affairs department from using its funds to enforce current policy that limits doctors from recommending weed.

Image via valeriesatcher/VSCO

There is evidence that the need for discussion and action may be greater and more pressing than what the law allows.

From Military Times:

“The death rate from opioids among VA health care is nearly double the national average,” [Representative] Blumenauer said in debate over his amendment. “From what I hear from veterans, is that medical marijuana has helped them deal with pain and PTSD, particularly as an alternative to opioids.”

On the positive side, VA doctors are sort-of free to discuss cannabis treatments and to fill out required paperwork for state medical marijuana programs. From the negative outlook: We are still a long way from the VA providing medical marijuana for patients or covering prescription cost.

Military veterans have learned through their service that fighting for freedom can be a frustrating and drawn-out process. Once they've made it back into the civilian world, America's soldiers should not be forced to wage that kind of struggle again.