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By Jonah Bennett
In a rare White House briefing, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin confirmed Wednesday that he is open to the idea of allowing veterans to have access to medical marijuana.
Shulkin said the department is fully open to looking into any treatment that could help veterans, particularly medical marijuana, but until federal law changes, implementing access for veterans is not possible.
“Well, right now federal law does not prevent us at VA to look at that as an option for veterans,” Shulkin said. “I believe that everything that can help veterans should be debated by Congress and medical experts and we will implement that law. So, if there is compelling evidence that this is helpful, I hope that people take a look at that and come up with the right decision and we will implement that.”
Shulkin then stepped in with his opinion as a physician and said there was evidence that medical marijuana could be effective, but more research is needed.
“My opinion is that some of the states that have put in appropriate controls, there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful and we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that, but until time that federal law changes we are not able to prescribe medical marijuana,” he added.
Thanks to Congress, VA physicians in states where marijuana is legal are allowed to discuss the option with patients, but are not allowed to recommend or prescribe the drug.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions does not have a favorable opinion of the drug and it remains a prohibited Schedule I substance on the federal level, which means it is not usable for medical purposes. As such, it’s unclear if veterans will be able to obtain medical marijuana prescriptions from the VA any time soon.
Medical marijuana is now legal in 28 states plus the District of Columbia.