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5 Things Veterans Deserve to Know About Medical Marijuana

Veterans Marijuana Facts

As we honor those who have served in the United States armed forces, CannaMD has organized five of the most important things every veteran deserves to know about medical marijuana, PTSD, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

We’re eternally grateful for the selfless sacrifice and courage of those who have served and remain committed to helping our veterans in any way we can!

If you are not a veteran, but have a loved one who is, we encourage you to share today’s important message.

1. Medical Marijuana Patients Still Receive VA Benefits

While VA doctors can’t prescribe or recommend medical marijuana (that’s what we do), they also can’t withhold benefits because you’re a medical cannabis patient.

The VA, through VHA Directive 1315, confirms:

Veterans must not be denied VA services solely because they are participating in state-approved marijuana programs.

According to the VA:

Veteran participation in state marijuana programs does not affect eligibility for VA care and services. VA providers can and do discuss marijuana use with veterans as part of comprehensive care planning, and adjust treatment plans as necessary.

The VA also outlines the following rules:

  • Veterans will not be denied VA benefits because of marijuana use.
  • Veterans are encouraged to discuss marijuana use with their VA providers.
  • VA health care providers will record marijuana use in the veteran’s VA medical record in order to have the information available in treatment planning. As with all clinical information, this is part of the confidential medical record and protected under patient privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations.
  • VA clinicians may not recommend medical marijuana.
  • VA clinicians may only prescribe medications that have been approved by the FDA for medical use. At present, most products containing THC, CBD, or other cannabinoids are not approved for this purpose by the FDA.
  • VA clinicians may not complete paperwork/forms required for veteran patients to participate in state-approved marijuana programs.
  • VA pharmacies may not fill prescriptions for medical marijuana.
  • VA will not pay for medical marijuana prescriptions from any source.
  • VA scientists may conduct research on marijuana benefits and risks, and potential for abuse, under regulatory approval.
  • The use or possession of marijuana is prohibited at all VA medical centers, locations and grounds. When you are on VA grounds it is federal law that is in force, not the laws of the state.
  • Veterans who are VA employees are subject to drug testing under the terms of employment.

For more information, see: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

2. Marijuana May Work Better than Other PTSD Medications

According to a leading neuropsychopharmacology journal:

Although SSRIs [antidepressants] are associated with an overall response rate of approximately 60% in patients with PTSD, only 20% to 30% of patients achieve complete remission.

Fortunately, medical marijuana may provide an effective alternative. As Dr. Alexander Neumeister, director of the molecular imaging program in the Departments of Psychiatry and Radiology at the NYU School of Medicine, explains:

There’s not a single pharmacological treatment out there that has been developed specifically for PTSD. There’s a consensus among clinicians that existing pharmaceutical treatments such as antidepressant simply do not work.

In fact, we know very well that people with PTSD who use marijuana — a potent cannabinoid — often experience more relief from their symptoms than they do from antidepressants and other psychiatric medications.

For more on marijuana vs. pharmaceutical medication, see: How Marijuana Helps PTSD.

3. Veterans Receive Discounted Marijuana Treatment

Before purchasing cannabis from a medical marijuana treatment center, Florida patients must first qualify for a medical marijuana certification; CannaMD provides qualified patients with the state-required recommendation to complete this process.

In addition to working with Veterans for Cannabis and other local organizations, CannaMD‘s board-certified physicians are honored to provide medical marijuana treatment to veterans and offer a 10% discount on all appointments.

CannaMD offers convenient locations all across the state. To schedule an appointment, simply call (855) 420-9170 or fill out a quick online application!

Veterans are also encouraged to speak with their local dispensary regarding military discounts on cannabis medication. Standard discounts include:

Note: Discounts are subject to change. Dispensaries may be running additional specials on Veteran’s Day.

For a full list of medical marijuana treatment centers, see CannaMD‘s Dispensary Directory.

4. PTSD Studies Support Cannabis

A 2014 study of 80 patients applying for their state’s medical cannabis program concluded:

Based on the Clinician-Administered Post-Traumatic Scale (CAPS) for DSM-IV, study participants experienced greater than 75% reduction in CAPS symptom scores when patients were using cannabis compared to when they were not.

Research suggests that marijuana may work in a number of different ways to decrease PTSD symptoms. For instance, a recent Frontiers in Neuroscience review noted that marijuana cannabinoid, CBD, can inhibit disturbing memories while offering fewer side effects than pharmaceutical medication.

Medical marijuana may also play a role in treating nightmares. A 2009 Canadian clinical trial of synthetic cannabinoid medication, nabilone, found:

The majority of patients (72%) receiving nabilone experienced either cessation of nightmares or a significant reduction in nightmare intensity. Subjective improvement in sleep time, the quality of sleep, and the reduction of daytime flashbacks and night sweats were also noted by some patients.

Lastly, research has identified a link between PTSD and low levels of the brain lipid, anandamide – a compound that closely resembles marijuana cannabinoid, THC. Anandmide has been called the body’s “natural antidepressant,” and when anandamide levels are restricted, results can include chronic anxiety, impaired fear extinction, aversive memory consolidation, and other symptoms of PTSD.

Importantly, anandamide activates our body’s CB1 receptors, the same brain receptors that are stimulated by THC. Studies link exposure to chronic stress to decreased CB1 receptor binding and expression within the hippocampus. This is a significant finding, as the hippocampus plays a major role in short and long-term memory consolidation (disruptions to memory consolidation are thought to play a role in PTSD flashbacks and other symptoms, such as hyper-vigilance).

While more research is needed, these studies suggest medical marijuana may restore balance to this complicated biological process.

5. You’re Not Alone

Of the nearly 175,000 medical marijuana certifications issued in Florida in 2018, more than 41,000 were for the treatment of PTSD, making it the second most common qualifying condition behind chronic pain. While CannaMD‘s experienced team of physicians are always available to help, it’s important to know that other PTSD and veterans resources are also available.

For additional support, consider visiting:

For more PTSD and cannabis facts, see CannaMD‘s PTSD Studies Page.

A NOTE REGARDING ACTIVE SERVICE MEMBERS: The Department of Defense states in their military drug and alcohol policy for active service members that they will “…enforce the prohibition of illicit and controlled substances, and substances prohibited by lawful order. Controlled substances are scheduled in 21 U.S.C. § 812 and are referenced by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), 10 U.S.C. § 912a, Article 112a.” However, thanks to an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), active service members may now use products containing hemp and its derivatives, including CBD (note: marijuana-derived CBD is still prohibited).

Ready to try medical marijuana?

Ready to try medical marijuana? Or just have questions? Give us a call at (855) 420-9170 or fill out a quick and easy online form. Our board-certified physicians are always available to help!

And to all our veterans out there: THANK YOU for your courage, sacrifice, and protection!

Find Out If You Qualify

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11 Comments

  1. I am trying to find out, I am on narcos for pain in my ankles both knees lower back my neck and my right shoulder. I was told that if I try the medical marijuana and the VA finds out, I will loose ALL of my pain meds..
    Is this true,, if the medical marijuana does not help me did I am totally screwed. I need advice

    1. Hi Kenneth! For specific questions, we’d recommend contacting the VA directly. The information above should provide a good starting point for your call. However, it’s important to note that the VA cannot deny benefits based on legal participation in a state-authorized medical cannabis program.

    2. Yes, the VA will take away any narcotics if you are found to have THC in your system. They told me that you can do one or the other but not both, however, that’s what my Dr told me but yours might have a different attitude. I recommend talking to your dr before doing anything. They’re starting to take away everyone’s narcotics and I’m in the same boat right now.

    1. Firstly, thank you for your service. We’re so sorry to hear about your experience. The VA is not allowed to deny benefits based on a patient’s medical marijuana status. If you have been, we suggest speaking with local VA leadership and/or legal counsel.

    2. It has been recommended to me to go on medical marijuana by physicians but I’m a veteran. I have chronic pain, PTSD and other diagnoses which would make me eligible but I asked my VA doctor and they said the same thing, that whoever prescribed the medical marijuana will be responsible for my pain control and any narcotics I’m on will be D/C’ed. That really scares me because if it doesn’t work for me I might not be able to get the medications back. Most were already stopped due to the “opioid crises” so what I’m taking is working a little but better than nothing. I too am 100% disabled so the VA pays for all of my medical needs including medications but this they will not pay a cent for. Could you tell me the positives and negatives for taking this route because it could be taking away any relief I am currently receiving, thank you?

  2. What about adhd medications? I have severe adhd and am a retired veteran. My medication s are norcotics to treat this learning disability, but a side effect is anxiety. Has anyone heard or know of someone in my situation? Without my medication, I am not able to work.

  3. I was paying over $340/mth for meds the VA wouldn’t cover— they took me off of ALL pain meds saying the VA wants ALL veterans OFF of pain meds- here in the TX clinic I went to they even took vets off who had phantom pain. When I lost my job because I had finally just become 100% P&T and I got to the point where I couldn’t even work a week and a half out of my FT job, I lost my insurance and have been off ANY pain meds SIX years. I’m am in constant pain, I can also go up to SEVEN days without sleep… right now I’m on day 4… which only worsens my depression, anxiety, pain and I beg for relief. So the VA doesn’t want anyone on pain meds… and I’m finally glad that just MAYBE I will be able to be allowed some relief now that Texas will allow for medical marijuana for PTSD starting September 1… God I hope so.

    1. Thank you for your service – wishing you improved health and relief 🙏🏼 Please let us know if you’re ever in Florida – we’d be honored to help!

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