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VA Disability and Medical Marijuana
Medical Marijuana and VA Disability
Over 30 states have legalized medical marijuana for health conditions such as cancer, chronic pain, and migraines. However, the federal government still designates marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning marijuana use and possession is illegal under federal law. This can cause confusion when it comes to Veteran’s who are interested in using medical marijuana but are receiving compensation and health care from the VA. Because of the confusion, the VA has offered some guidelines regarding marijuana use for individuals receive VA disability compensation.
Can I Discuss Medical Marijuana with a VA Doctor?
The VA allows its medical providers and pharmacists to discuss medical marijuana with their Veteran patients. If a patient is interested in medical marijuana, VA providers should discuss how using state-approved medical marijuana may affect the Veteran’s condition, clinical care, and possible treatment methods. Should a patient choose to use medical marijuana, the provider must document this in the Veteran’s health records and adjust their treatment methods accordingly.
However, VA medical providers and pharmacists are prohibited from recommending medical marijuana use or assisting Veterans in obtaining medical marijuana. This includes, but is not limited to, completing forms to obtain medical marijuana permits, registering Veterans for participation in a state-approved marijuana program, or providing Veterans with referrals to assist in obtaining medical marijuana.
Further, the VA will not pay for any medical marijuana, even if it can be used to treat a current disability.
Why Can’t VA Providers Recommend Marijuana?
In recent years, there has been bipartisan support to change marijuana’s status under federal law. According to Congress.gov, The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019, which is still under review and has not been passed in either the House or Senate, would “remove marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and eliminates criminal penalties for an individual who manufactures, distributes, or possesses marijuana.”
Should this bill be signed into law, it could provide VA medical providers more flexibility in how they can discuss and recommend medical marijuana to their patients.
However, as of today, medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law. While a Veteran can still obtain medical care and compensation benefits from the VA while they use medical marijuana, there may be consequences should a Veteran be arrested and/or prosecuted for marijuana related crimes including, but is not limited to, possessing marijuana, use of marijuana on VA property, and possession of marijuana paraphernalia.
Additionally, all VA employees are prohibited from using marijuana under any circumstance per their terms of employment.
Notably, if a Veteran is using medical marijuana and trying to obtain service connection or an increased rating for a mental health condition, some research shows that marijuana may interfere with a person’s mental health, causing or worsening their condition. A Veteran who is using medical marijuana may find it more difficult to overcome this negative evidence and successfully obtain a grant from the VA.
America’s Veterans Law Firm
Berry Law is your fire support team to battle the VA. If you need assistance appealing your VA decision, contact the team that has been helping Veterans with their legal needs for over 50 years. Berry Law features attorneys from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, and they will continue advocating on behalf of Veterans until every Veteran receives all the disability compensation they deserve. Contact Berry Law today to schedule a free case evaluation.
Emily Weiss is a VA accredited appeals attorney who helps Veterans in their fight for disability compensation. Emily’s commitment to improving the lives of Veterans stems from her military ties—her father served in the Army and her husband is a Navy Veteran. As an attorney, she helps Veterans navigate the often difficult and confusing VA system to obtain the disability benefits they deserve. Emily is also a member of the National Organization of Veterans Advocates (NOVA).