Military veterans relying on the VA for medical care have never been given stellar service. It seems like the Veteran’s Administration sometimes goes out of its way to make life difficult. One of the more recent examples of this is a new temporary rule designed to govern a grant program for preventing veteran suicide. The rule prohibits program funds from going toward providing medical cannabis.
In fairness, the VA’s hands are tied to some degree. They do not have the unilateral authority to ignore federal law – especially where marijuana is concerned. Marijuana remains illegal under federal statute. Therefore, funneling VA grant money into any state or local program that provides medical cannabis to veterans would be illegal.
It is Not a Matter of Evidence
The Utahmarijuana.org website is one of many that discuss research into medical cannabis as a treatment for PTSD. They say that “the effects of cannabis on the brain suggests that cannabis compounds could be as effective as medications for many of the severe symptoms of PTSD, like insomnia, anxiety, and depression.”
Proponents point to such research as reason to force the VA to get behind medical cannabis as a potential suicide prevention tool. They cite the fact that the VA often approves funding for alternative medicines that, while not officially approved, still show promise. There is enough evidence there to suggest they might work.
For the VA though, it is not a matter of evidence. It is not a matter of whether medical cannabis is considered experimental or an alternative treatment. It is a matter of law. The law says they cannot be involved with cannabis. Therefore, VA grant money cannot go to programs that provide cannabis.
Get the Law Changed
The VA’s position on grant money and cannabis is a microcosm of the ongoing federal-state marijuana conflict. Even though marijuana is still considered illegal by federal statute, some thirty-eight states have legalized it for medical use, recreational use, or both. The only reason they are getting away with it is the fact that Washington has chosen to turn a blind eye.
Some in the medical cannabis community want the VA to turn a blind eye as well. But that is exactly the kind of thing that got marijuana put on the Schedule I list of controlled substances back in the 1970s. Marijuana is illegal because making it so served political purposes.
Asking the VA to turn a blind eye just adds to the political corruption. It adds to the myth that we are a nation of laws upheld by a rock-solid constitution and a will to enforce those laws. Turning a blind eye says we are willing to break the law when it is expedient. Is that the right way to go? No. The right way to go is to get the law changed.
There Is Another Option
Until Washington decriminalizes marijuana – if that ever happens – veterans do have other options. Right off the bat, they can bypass the VA altogether. Veterans suffering from PTSD can obtain their medical cannabis cards and then purchase medications directly from a licensed pharmacy. The VA cannot do anything about it.
Sure, that means they do not get their medications for free. But non-veterans who choose to use medical cannabis have to pay for it as well. Their health insurance policies will not cover cannabis prescriptions.
Unfortunately, the ongoing federal-state marijuana conflict continues to affect veterans. That is not going to change as long as federal and state laws disagree. What is the solution? Get Washington and the states on the same page so that cannabis is legal everywhere.