The VA’s medical marijuana policy may do an about face. Twenty years after California became the first state to allow medical marijuana, the VA may follow California’s and twenty-three other states’ footsteps.
Studies have shown that medical marijuana helps patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While the VA has found no evidence supporting this claim, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam has found that “the cannabinoid system is integrally related to memory, specifically to memory extinction…the normal, healthy process of removing associations from stimuli.”
A decision to include marijuana as a VA treatment plan would be a victory for both marijuana advocates and veterans suffering from service-related injuries.Efforts to reform the VA’s policy have bipartisan support in Congress.
Current rules force veterans seeking medical marijuana to go to independent doctors or to avoid treatment. According to Tim Devaney, “Lawmakers don’t want the agency to renew the medical marijuana policy” In a time of partisan polarization, this cross-aisle agreement is a rare occurrence.
At the moment, veterans must seek civilian healthcare for medical marijuana or abandon the prospect of medical marijuana treatment. Reforms to VA medical marijuana laws will allow veterans to seek marijuana as a treatment through the VA, which provides healthcare for many disabled veterans.
When interviewed, several veterans expressed their support for the inclusion of medical marijuana to the VA treatment plan. Former Navy Noncommissioned Officer Darryl Johnson says, “Even though I don’t smoke, I believe many veterans can benefit from medical marijuana as an option. And why not? It’s like having another tool in your toolbox for the medical field. I think it’s ridiculous that people think that everyone is going to become a pothead as soon as marijuana becomes available.”
Another former service member, who wished to remain anonymous for the article, states,” We give all sorts of psychiatric drugs to treat service members. We give them anti-depressants, and we give them anti-anxiety meds. All of these drugs can have negative side effects. I say that we should give medical marijuana a shot. Veterans will definitely win with the VA’s allowing of medical marijuana.”
With the end of the war in Iraq and the drawdown in Afghanistan, many of the soldiers who served in those conflicts are no longer enlisted or commissioned. According to the VA, 1,234,965 veterans rely on the VA for healthcare.
The inclusion of marijuana into the VA’s treatment plan could help many veterans who rely on the VA for healthcare.