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Vets using cannabis aren’t at risk of losing VA benefits

Vets using cannabis aren’t at risk of losing VA benefits
The following commentary is provided by the Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative (MMERI) of Florida A&M University.

While being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) several years ago, U.S. Army and Iraq War veteran William Davis realized he had become hooked on the opioid pain medication hydrocodone. Seeking to break his dependency on the legal yet highly addictive drug, Davis turned to marijuana as an alternative pain relief solution, despite its illegality in Louisiana.

He said using street-grade marijuana helped alleviate his PTSD-related anxieties and lessened his dependency on hydrocodone. But, Mr. Davis cautions, he would not recommend using illegally obtained marijuana under any circumstance today “because you don’t know what is in it.”

In 2019 Louisiana legalized medical marijuana treatment for qualifying chronic conditions, including PTSD. 

Regardless of its legal uses at the state level, marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and this can impact veterans who get healthcare services through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). For example, clinicians at the VA cannot recommend medical marijuana as a treatment.

Dr. Barry Gordon, a qualified medical marijuana physician in Venice, Fla., said he is concerned that fear of losing VA benefits keeps some veterans from obtaining medical marijuana cards or using widely available hemp products. However, the VA explicitly addresses such apprehensions on its website, stating, “Veterans will not be denied VA benefits because of marijuana use,” and they “are encouraged to discuss marijuana use with their VA providers.”

Dr. Gordon and Mr. Davis advocate for increased accessibility of cannabis as a medical treatment for veterans and work to educate them and others about its potential benefits.

Dr. Gordon said it is the job of medical marijuana doctors like him to educate their patients “about what this plant can do,” not just provide them with registry cards.

“I say patients demand that education from their doctor because that’s where the magic occurs,” he said. “Each and every veteran, each and every citizen should be able to obtain educational access to a substance that people are using already successfully in so many areas of the country and the world.”

Visit   to watch MMERI’s Conversations on Cannabis Virtual Forum featuring Army veteran and cannabis entrepreneur William Davis and qualified medical marijuana physician Dr. Barry Gordon discussing veterans and cannabis.

This content was originally published here.