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VA Secretary Expresses Need for Medical Cannabis Reforms

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said recently that he sympathizes with veterans who have turned to medical cannabis for relief and that the VA is “looking into” improving cannabis access for veterans.

Full story after the jump.

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Denis McDonough said that although the agency does not allow its physicians to discuss medical cannabis with Veterans, VA officials have discussed the need for policy changes and shared this with the White House, Marijuana Moment reports.

At a Veterans Day Q&A session, McDonough was asked a question by a Marine Corp Veteran who said medical cannabis often works better than pharmaceuticals for treating conditions like pain and PTSD. The Secretary responded by revealing the VA is “looking into” policy changes. He then shared a story about a veteran who felt he was only alive because of his service dog and cannabis.

“It was very profound,” McDonough remarked.

“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.” — Denis McDonough via Marijuana Moment

However, he dashed some cold water on the remarks, saying he was not in a position to make the change to allow VA doctors to recommend medical cannabis for veterans due to the plant’s designation as a Schedule I narcotic.

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

Despite the Secretary’s expressed sympathies with veterans who use medical cannabis in the Q&A, the VA opposed recent access and research reforms passed by the House Veterans Affairs Committee on the grounds the legislation was “overly prescriptive” and the VA was already doing research into medical cannabis, according to the report.

McDonough did not speak to specific legislation but concluded his remarks on a positive note. “Let’s make sure that we’re addressing the range of options that our veterans know can work for them without falling into the trap on pharmaceuticals,” he said.

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