Feds Having ‘Active Discussions’ on Medical Marijuana for Veterans

The federal government is actively exploring how to deal with military veterans who could benefit from medical marijuana, according to congressional testimony from a top U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs official.

Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the V.A.’s interim under secretary for health, told the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on Wednesday that “there are active discussions going on now” about how to address the growing number of veterans who are seeking cannabis treatments.

Clancy said that a “fair number of our clinicians have veterans who use marijuana” medically. But because federal law doesn’t allow V.A. doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients — even in states where it is legal — those veterans must seek outside doctors for cannabis treatment.

Last week, a bipartisan group of House members introduced legislation that would change that.

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), a cosponsor of that bill, the Veterans Equal Access Act, raised the issue at a hearing on the V.A.’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget request. “As more and more states are legalizing medical marijuana, V.A. doctors aren’t able to make any kind of recommendations concerning that,” she said. “I wonder how V.A. policy might be moving to address that issue.”

Citing the growing number of veterans who use marijuana medically, Clancy responded that “there’s an incredible opportunity for us to learn from some of those experiences, but I think that we have to be careful given the variation in legal issues.”

“It is very, very early days for us to have medical policies,” she said. “[We’re] trying to be responsive to veterans’ experiences and what they’re telling us. We’re trying to learn from that and understand and anticipate what a different future might look like.”