Charles Feldmann, Esq.
medical marijuana patients won an important victory on Thursday, when both the U.S. Senate
and House approved legislation prohibiting the Department of Veterans
Affairs (V.A.) from spending its funds to enforce a policy banning Veteran
Administration doctors from discussing medical marijuana use with patients.
Currently, providers who work for a Veterans Administration facility may
not complete forms or even professionally discuss the benefits and risks
of medical marijuana use with veteran patients. Opponents to this policy
allege that it unfairly penalizes veterans, particularly when compared
to their civilian counterparts, who face no such medical restrictions.
Given medical marijuana’s frequent use as a treatment for conditions
commonly suffered by veterans, such as chronic pain, PTSD, and brain injuries,
critics have held that the Veteran Administration restriction blocks valuable
medical access to veterans who may need it the most.
With the Senate bill passing 89-8 and the House amendment 233-189, Congress’s
approval comes at a time when the public’s support for state legalization
of medical marijuana continues to rise.
Furthermore, a study by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam (a top Israeli neuroscientist
and senior advisor to the Israeli government on marijuana policy, who
both identified THC as the psychoactive compound in marijuana and established
a connection between cannabinoids and memory extinction) may have important
significance regarding the treatment of PTSD. Dr. Mechoulam believes marijuana
may eventually have applications for other neurological and psychiatric
conditions, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
Using mice that had been trained to associate a sound with a physical shock,
Dr. Mechoulam found that the mice that subsequently received cannabinoid
treatment would forget the association between the noise and shock after
a few days, whereas the mice that did not would “simply never forget.”
He believes this discovery has major implications regarding symptom relief
in those suffering from PTSD, comparing it to the medical equivalent of
taking aspirin for a headache.
In his article addressing the scientific benefits of cannabis for veterans,
he called the FDA’s refusal to investigate cannabinoids for treatment
of anxiety disorders “striking.”
“Yet they have approved studies of MDMA, the club drug Ecstasy, for
the treatment of PTSD,” he continued. “With the lives and
well-being of so many veterans AND private citizens at stake, those in
the scientific community and [policy] makers alike cannot afford to miss
the wake-up call.”
Although the V.A.’s prohibition on providers discussing medical marijuana
with patients technically expired this past January, it remains in effect
until another policy replaces it. The legislature approved by Congress
will do just that, and it creates protections for both V.A. providers
and patients who wish to consider medical marijuana as a treatment option.
The VA has said that it is waiting on potential legislative changes regarding
veterans and medical marijuana use prior to deciding whether to implement
its own policy on the issue. The VA’s Policy,
Access to Clinical Programs for Veterans Participating in State-Approved
Marijuana Programs, is thus on hold until further notice.
The next step in the enactment’s future is a meeting between negotiators
from the House and Senate, where discrepancies between the two chambers’
versions will be reconciled. After that, the bill will head to President
Obama, whose signature will effectively enact the bill – and the
prohibition on the V.A. enforcing its policy – into law.
For more information on Marijuana Law for Veterans,
contact Charles Feldmann at MJBusinessAttorneys.com.