The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has issued new policies regarding medical marijuana and military veterans. According to the new directive, VHA Directive 1315, VA physicians are now cleared to speak with their patients openly about marijuana use as a possible treatment option. VA physicians are still prohibited, however, from outright recommending medical marijuana, let alone prescribing it. VA physicians can refer their paients to clinics like us.
Under the new directive, when a VA physician discusses medical marijuana with a patient, it must include the currently available clinical information relevant to the patient’s condition. The VA physician must then document the discussion in the patient’s medical record. If a VA physician becomes aware that a patient is using marijuana, that doctor is instructed under the directive to make any appropriate adjustments necessary to the patient’s treatment program. These decisions must be made on an individual basis and in league with the veteran him or herself. Further, these decisions must be founded on concerns for the safety and health of the veteran.
In another stipulation of the new law, veterans can no longer be denied services by the Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA) based on their participation in a marijuana program approved by their state, in this case Arizona. Any patient enrolled in an Arizona state approved marijuana program is now legally allowed to bring up marijuana use, whether currently using or considering it, with their VA doctor, and cannot be denied or refused services because of it. Moreover, the new law directs VA doctors to inquire of a patient’s marijuana use in order to modify the patient’s treatment accordingly.
VA doctors still, however, must comply with all U.S. Federal laws regarding marijuana, including the Controlled Substances Act. As such, the directive states, VA doctors may not fill out or sign any forms attesting to their approval, recommendation or even acknowledgement of a patient’s marijuana use, including for participation in a state authorized medical marijuana program. Ironically, as the Forbes article that broke this story reports, there is no provision in that or any Federal law preventing doctors, whether from the VA or not, from signing state approved medical marijuana recommendation forms. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003, in fact, that recommending medical marijuana to patients was protected under a physician’s First Amendment rights, assuming, of course, they do not actually provide the cannabis. Nevertheless, the restriction on VA doctors filling out and signing state approved medical marijuana forms remains, if only due to the VHA’s own say so. White House VA Secretary at the May 2018 time of this writing, David Shulkin, asserts that it is the role of the U.S. Congress and not the VA to change this policy provision, claiming the VA is not even permitted under current law to study, investigate or research the legitimacy of medical marijuana.
To discuss with a VA doctor the possibility of medical marijuana as a treatment for your condition, contact the physicians at Green Dream Doctors. There are now two locations: the original office in Phoenix and a new location in Tucson conveniently right across from the VA hospital.
3001 W Indian School Rd Ste # 311, Phoenix, AZ 85017 602 910 9628
3502 S 6th Ave, Ste #120 Tucson, AZ 85713 602 910 9628