Veterans Affairs Head 'Interested' in Medical Marijuana

May 31st 2017

Veterans want the Trump administration's anti-legalization cabinet to take a lesson from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

VA Secretary David Shulkin broke with anti-legalization hardliners in the Trump administration on Wednesday, telling reporters that he's "interested" in examining how marijuana can benefit veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD.

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A holdover from the Obama administration, Shulkin was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in February, and has previously weighed in on conflicting federal and state marijuana laws—but he's avoided going so far as to comment on its potential therapeutic value for veterans.

"Everything that could help veterans should be debated by Congress and medical experts, and we will implement that law," Shulkin said. As a physician, he said "there may be some evidence that [medical marijuana] is beginning to be helpful" in legal states "and we're interested in looking at that and learning from that."

Shulkin's latest comments come one week after the country's largest veterans organization, the American Legion, called on the Trump administration to loosen federal marijuana laws in order to free up research into the plant's medical benefits. Studies show that cannabis effectively treats several symptoms associated with PTSD, including insomnia, anxiety and depression.

American Legion spokesperson Joe Plenzler told ATTN: that the organization "certainly applauds" Shulkin's admission and said he would "encourage him" to bring that perspective directly to President Donald Trump.

As it stands, VA doctors are not allowed to recommend medical cannabis to veterans because the substance remains federally illegal. But last year, Shulkin emphasized that VA doctors are allowed to discuss cannabis treatment in states that have legalized it.

The remarks are significant, especially in contrast with Attorney General Jeff Sessions' attitude toward marijuana reform, Marijuana Majority founder Tom Angell told ATTN:.

"These comments, coming from a medical doctor at the highest levels of the federal government, seriously undercut the attorney general’s contention that marijuana has no medical benefits," Angell said. "It’s time for the Trump administration to reschedule cannabis and to issue a new VA policy that lets the department’s doctors recommend marijuana to veterans who could use it to heal their war wounds."

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