August 17, 2023

Lee, Blumenauer, Joyce Urge Department of Veterans Affairs to Reconsider Guidance Prohibiting VA Doctors from Prescribing Medical Cannabis

Washington, DC – Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA-12), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), and Dave Joyce (R-OH-14) today sent a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) urging a reconsideration of their policy that prohibits VA providers from prescribing medical marijuana to their patients in states, territories and tribal lands where medical marijuana is legal. This comes after the lawmakers, along with Representative Brian Mast (R-FL-21), led a provision in the House-passed Fiscal Year 2024 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 4366) to end the continued restrictions on VA providers to make recommendations and referrals and to complete forms for state-authorized medical marijuana programs. 

“We write with deep concern that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) renewed undue restrictions on veterans’ care and once again denied the reality of medical marijuana as a key treatment option for those impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain, and other conditions disproportionately harming our veterans,”wrote the lawmakers. “We urge you to reconsider this misguided prohibition that prevents these health professionals from considering the full range of available treatment options in consultation with their patients.”

The lawmakers continued, “Giving VA providers the discretion to recommend or not recommend medical marijuana as best serves their patients would improve veterans’ services and stop forcing them to self-medicate or seek care outside of the VA system. It would not put providers at risk of federal prosecution from the Department of Justice and its agencies. Many veterans already report using cannabis for medical purposes as a substitute for prescription drugs3and their side effects. Just this year, new research found veterans reported medical cannabis “helped them to experience a greater quality of life and... reported using fewer opioids as a result of their medical cannabis use.”

“VA is isolated in its continued denial of this treatment option for veterans. No one is better qualified to make recommendations on care for their patients than veterans working with their VA health care providers.”

To read the full letter, click here.