veterans policy for cbd oil

VA under pressure to ease medical marijuana rules

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is under pressure to ease restrictions on veterans’ access to medical marijuana to help treat pain and other ailments.

Veterans advocacy groups want to know if marijuana can treat chronic pain, as well as help address widespread suicides among veteran communities.

While 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, veterans are finding themselves fighting stigma and roadblocks from the federal government’s drug laws.

Under official federal policy, VA health care providers may not recommend marijuana or assist veterans in obtaining it. The VA also won’t reimburse veterans who pay for marijuana out-of-pocket.

Marijuana is a Schedule I drug, meaning it is in the same category as drugs like heroin and LSD. According to the federal government, it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical value. Until that classification changes, the VA has said its hands are tied.

“[The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee] can make strong proposals for us to move forward with recommendations of filling out forms and such but, in the end, we need to go back to the [Drug Enforcement Agency] DEA and [Justice Department] for their opinion,” Larry Mole, chief consultant for population health at the VA, said during a House hearing in the spring.

That opposition is frustrating members of Congress and some leading advocacy groups, and there is a growing bipartisan push to ease the prescribing ban, as well as force the agency to conduct research into the drug’s efficacy.

Both the American Legion, the country’s largest veterans organization, and Veterans of Foreign Wars support research into the medicinal uses of cannabis. They have made the issue a top legislative priority.

“If there’s a viable medical treatment available to civilians, it’s not just inappropriate, it’s patently unjust that veterans don’t have access to it,” said Lindsay Rodman, an executive vice president at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which represents the country’s youngest veterans.

Despite an existing VA directive, veterans risk having a negative mark in their permanent records if they are flagged using legal medical marijuana.

Pending legislation in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee could help.

Steube said veterans are getting caught between the states and the federal government, and he wants to change that.

“Veterans who were taking advantage of this state-approved program were having challenges with the VA and their benefits with the VA. There was a lot of confusion,” including cases where veterans were being told they would lose benefits, Steube told The Hill.

“If we have veterans who have gone through the process . they shouldn’t be denied that health care they’ve earned just because they were taking advantage of state-approved medicinal marijuana programs,” he said.

Blumenauer withdrew a similar amendment from the annual House spending bill in June, but his legislation remains active in the committee.

VA leadership strongly opposes all the bills, and advocates admit that even if the legislation passes the House, Senate Republicans will be reluctant to buck the administration.

“We are realistic it will be a much more difficult problem to pass it in the Senate than the House,” Rodman said.

Other marijuana legislation that’s not specific to veterans could still help veterans gain access. For example, Steube also introduced a bill to reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I controlled substance to a Schedule III controlled substance, to make it easier to research.

VA officials have said that the department supports medical marijuana research, and the agency is conducting some trials.

But the studies are small-scale, and lawmakers want the agency to go further. They argue the VA has the authority to allow rigorous clinical trials but is using bureaucratic red tape as an excuse.

“We authorized VA last year to do the studies. They didn’t do it,” Rep. Phil Roe David (Phil) Phillip RoeHouse Republicans who didn’t sign onto the Texas lawsuit Illinois Republican elected to serve as next ranking member of House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year MORE (R-Tenn.) said during a recent hearing. “We need to make sure that they have to study [medical marijuana]. I just don’t think we as politicians should be telling scientists how to design the studies.”

The federal government has put significant restrictions on cannabis research. Scientists need permission from a host of federal agencies to start the research, including the Food and Drug Administration, the DEA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Even then, there is only one facility in the country that is allowed to grow marijuana and distribute it for research purposes, and there have been concerns raised that the marijuana grown at the facility is poor quality.

The VA has also in the past declined to participate in FDA-approved private sector research on medical marijuana and veterans’ post-traumatic stress disorder, and has blocked researchers from having access to VA hospitals and veterans who might benefit from the research.

But advocates insist they’ll keep up pressure on the VA.

Veterans groups say it doesn’t matter what the research concludes. They say they just want the VA to be able to conduct it, and they want veterans to be able to talk to their providers about whether they should be using marijuana.

Q&A With Jamie Robinson: CBD for Pain Management

Jamie Robinson is educating people on the health benefits of non-psychoactive CBD oil, the difference between hemp and marijuana, and how to make cannabidiol (CBD) available to people who might benefit from it. An entrepreneur living in Denver, she has a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and is a CBD Educator. In addition to being a veteran of the armed services herself, she works to inform veterans and the public regarding the health benefits of CBD oil.

She’s focused on our veterans and combat K9’s (yes, you read that right — the dogs that serve our country) suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, and chronic pain. This is a controversial topic. But should it be so contentious?

Health Central (HC): What motivated you to get involved with CBD oil to help our veterans and K-9’s?

Jamie: My sister, a military veteran, was found to have multiple brain cysts of unknown origin causing Parkinson’s-like tremors in her hand. After 14 years of follow-up tests and countless visits with specialists, she has yet to receive a diagnosis or cure.

Jamie: Since CBD has been shown to reduce tremors in some people with neurodegenerative disorders as well as reduce seizures in some cases of epilepsy, I decided to learn more about this all-natural compound. In my review of the research, I found a link between CBD and positive outcomes in veterans with PTSD. And since there is evidence cannabis can help neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders, I wondered if it might help people like my sister.

HC: The United States Veterans Affairs (VA) reports that a review of 13,000 publications on cannabis found 75 studies relating to pain or potential harms. One study funded by the VA concluded there is insufficient evidence to assess the effects of marijuana on PTSD and another study, also funded by the VA, concluded there is limited evidence to suggest cannabis may alleviate neuropathic pain in some patients, and there is insufficient evidence regarding other types of chronic pain. Does this affect your efforts to make CBD available for veterans?

Jamie: I think it is important to note here — there is a difference between marijuana and hemp. Hemp contains very little THC and high amounts of CBD. The research I have reviewed strongly supports the health benefits of CBD. There is a plethora of information regarding the use of CBD at EchoConnection.org. They provide a comprehensive approach regarding the therapeutic effects of CBD and cannabinoids, and they provide support in a safe environment.

HC: According to MedicalMarijuana.com, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkinays says there is evidence medical marijuana (MMJ) could help certain veterans, but federal law needs to change to make it accessible. Are there caregivers at Veterans Affairs who are willing to help?

Jamie: Yes, some believe in the health benefits of CBD as I do. In his detailed presentation, Dr. Philip Blair discusses the endocannabinoid system insufficiencies noted in PTSD. He tells us that recent trials with Elixinol hemp CBD Liposomes have shown dramatic symptom relief in veterans with chronic PTSD.

HC: Are you hopeful that the VA will embrace CBD as a viable treatment option for veterans and military K9s?

Jamie: Yes, I am hopeful because we have scientific evidence that the endocannabinoid system can be deficient and feeding it CBD can help heal the body from within. Animals also have an endocannabinoid system and military K9’s can suffer from PTSD just as soldiers do, so there is hope in treating the four-legged vets with CBD as well.

HC: Are there channels you go through and do you have any recommendations or tips for other advocates?