VA Continues To Oppose Access To Medical Marijuana For Veterans

May 07, 2019 - 12:53 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Thirty-three states including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut allow the legal use of marijuana for medicinal purposes but the Department of Veterans Affairs opposes efforts to allow veterans to use the drug, even in states where it is legal for everyone else.

“I believe, first and foremost that the VA needs to be authorized to study this issue. The fact that we have a potential opportunity to ease veterans’ pain, anxiety and all those associated group of aliments and we’re not pursuing those strategies is ludicrous to me,” said Staten Island and Brooklyn Congressman Max Rose.

Rose, an Army veteran who was wounded in Afghanistan and was awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, sits on the House Veterans Affairs Committees, is a veteran himself and feels that there is enough knowledge and information on medical marijuana for the VA to finally begin studying the drug.

He does acknowledge that the VA is a federal agency and a large part of why they may not support the use of medical marijuana is because it’s still illegal on a federal level.

“This drug needs to be de-scheduled, it needs to be de-scheduled for a whole host of reasons, one of which though is to allow the VA to prescribe medicinal marijuana,” Rose said.

Rose notes that veterans are already often prescribed a variety of drugs to treat different aliments, including opioids, which are highly addictive and often result in further complications.

Still, VA officials say as long as marijuana is a Schedule I drug, they will look to the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Department of Justice on what to allow.

When asked if the Veterans Affair Committee could somehow force the VA to allow veterans access to medical marijuana, Rose noted “At this point Congress can significantly push the VA towards studying this issue and then Congress as a whole can push the issue of de-scheduling.”

“In a perfect world, veterans will have access to medicinal marijuana as prescribed by the VA,” Rose said.

The congressman says Congress continues to play “political games” with veterans’ health at a time when a growing number of military personnel are suffering from mental health issues and thousands are lost to suicide each year.

“We're playing games and we're not showing any urgency,” Rose said. “This is what's wrong with Congress. We've got to fix it.”