Denis McDonough

VA Looking Into Medical Marijuana Policy Changes, Says VA Secretary

VA Looking Into Medical Marijuana Policy Changes, Says VA Secretary

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough stated that although medical marijuana is federally illegal, VA officials are having discussions on policy changes that will enable VA doctors to recommend medical cannabis to veterans, according to MarijuanaMoment

“We’re trying to explore what more we can do. And I’ve talked to our friends in the rest of the federal government, including the Department of Justice, on what we can do on this, and with the White House,” McDonough answered in a Q&A released on Veteran’s Day.

McDonough was responding to the following question from a veteran, ”Hello, will veterans ever be able to obtain medical marijuana cards for pain (issued by the VA)? I will not be using this, but I know many vets that can benefit from this, in dealing with pain/PTSD, instead of just pills.”

Before answering the question, McDonough shared a story from a veteran at approached him at a mall and left him with a moving experience. The vet told McDonough he was alive thanks to his service dog and cannabis. 

Plenty of veterans have shared their experiences about dealing with post-traumatic stress order and advocate for medical marijuana.

The VA hosted a thread titled, “What would you ask the Secretary of Veterans Affairs?” The thread was hosted on RallyPoint, a popular social networking site for military members, veterans, and their families. 

On the thread, the VA stated that the department is under federal law, so its physicians are prohibited from recommending medical marijuana to veterans. 

“Right now, under current law and current policy, we cannot be in a position to get those [medical marijuana] cards to veterans,” McDonough said in the Q&A. “In order to get to a point where we would give those cards, we’re going to need both a change in policy, which I’m looking at, as well as a change in law.”

However, earlier this year, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to enable VA physicians to grant medical marijuana recommendations for veterans residing in states where it is legal.

Veterans in these states can feel more at ease after consuming cannabis through different methods, such as using a decorative bubbler

McDonough also acknowledged some veterans experience an issue of over-reliance on pharmaceuticals.

“We’ve learned a lot of lessons in the last ten years, and I think we’re leading the way, frankly, in the country on how we can manage prescription drugs better and how we can develop alternatives to prescription drugs,” McDonough stated in the Q&A.

The VA Whole Health program offers meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and other non-pharmaceutical-based pain management at VA medical centers across the country. 

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