VA Staff in Legalized States Can Be Fired for Cannabis Use

A recent Veterans Affairs memo confirmed that employees of the agency can still be fired for cannabis use, even if they live in states where it has been legalized for personal use.

Full story after the jump.

In a memo to employees, the Department of Veterans Affairs reiterated that employees can still be fired for using cannabis even in states where it has been legalized, according to a Military Times report. The rules apply to all department staffers, the memo says, specifying that all VA employees “refrain from using illegal drugs on and off duty.”

“There is no legitimate medical explanation for a marijuana positive test result, other than a verified prescription of certain FDA-approved drugs. A prescription for medical marijuana is not an acceptable medical explanation for a positive drug test.” – Veterans Affairs memo, via the Military Times

According to policies outlined in the report, VA physicians are required to record cannabis use in medical files but that information “is part of the confidential medical record and protected under patient privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations.”

VA press secretary Christina Mandreucci told the Times that the agency’s policies against cannabis use by employees is not meant to discourage patients from discussing their own cannabis use as the policy applies only to employees. VA doctors are not permitted to qualify patients for state-approved medical cannabis programs and cannabis possession on VA property is considered a federal crime.

“Marijuana is illegal under federal law,” the VA memo says. “Even though some states have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes, marijuana, marijuana extracts, and tetrahydrocannabinols are illegal for human use under federal law.”

The memo is signed by current VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

Last year, former VA Secretary David Shulkin, an appointee of President Donald Trump, told Task & Purpose that the “time is now” for the agency to research medical cannabis.

In the interview, Shulkin said he believes that medical cannabis access could help prevent suicides by veterans because those suicides are often linked to chronic pain, depression, and substance abuse. He said that he believes “properly prescribed” medical cannabis “may have some real benefits in anxiety improvement, in pain management, and potentially, in the issue of substance abuse.”

Last year, the VA opposed three federal legislative proposals that would have allowed the agency to research medical cannabis and allowed veterans access to medical cannabis products under state-approved programs.

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