Daines, bipartisan group call on VA to allow discussion of legal medical marijuana treatment

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was urged on Wednesday by U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) to change its policy to allow VA doctors to discuss and recommend marijuana as a treatment option in states where medical marijuana has been legalized.

Under the VA’s current system, doctors cannot give recommendations for patients to receive medical marijuana, even if located in a state that has legalized it.

“According to the current directive, VA providers are prohibited from completing forms seeking recommendations or opinions regarding a veteran’s participation in a state-sanctioned marijuana program,” Daines and a bipartisan group of 21 senators and representatives said in a letter to VA Secretary Bob McDonald. “This policy disincentivizes doctors and patients from being honest with each other. Congress has taken initial steps to alleviate this conflict in law and we will continue to work toward this goal. However, you are in a position to make this change when the current VHA directive expires at the end of this month. We ask that you act to ensure that our veterans’ access to care is not compromised and that doctors and patients are allowed to have honest discussions about treatment options.”

The letter was also signed by U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dina Titus (D-NV), Joe Heck (R-NV), Sam Farr (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Justin Amash (R-MI) and Mark Pocan (D-WI).

Daines also introduced an amendment to the 2016 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs appropriations bill last year that would have allowed the discussion and recommendation of medical marijuana treatment in accordance with state law for patients. The amendment passed the Senate Committee on Appropriations in a bipartisan vote.

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