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IAVA | February 26, 2024

READ: VSO Letter on Cannabis Rescheduling

February 16, 2024

Dear Attorney General Garland and Administrator Milgram,

On behalf of some of the nation’s largest Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), we write you to request that you expeditiously accept the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reschedule cannabis to Schedule III. The undersigned groups fully support the reclassification of cannabis and eagerly await your final decision.

The men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces often face difficult physical and mental challenges upon returning home. As such, we hope that in treating the wounds of war – both visible and invisible – that our servicemembers and veterans would have access to the widest array of possible treatments. The recommendation by HHS to move cannabis to Schedule III reflects a growing acknowledgement of the accepted medical use and potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis products. As organizations dedicated to advocating for the well-being of our veterans, we believe the recommendation of Schedule III will open greater access to the alternative medicines that our nation’s heroes demand and deserve.

While the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Directive 1315 currently dictates that services will not be denied to veterans who participate in state legal cannabis programs or acknowledge that they use cannabis, many veterans remain uncomfortable discussing cannabis use with their VA providers due to fear of retribution. Under current policy, veterans also cannot possess cannabis at VA facilities and the VA will not pay for any costs associated with medical cannabis. Further still, VA healthcare providers cannot help those under their care within the VHA to fill out applications for medical cannabis cards or to participate in regulated medical cannabis programs – even when they reside in a state with a legal program.

As the nation’s largest healthcare provider, the VA can and must do better in providing treatment options to veterans – treatments that are readily available in 38 states around the country to millions of civilian Americans outside of the VHA. By accepting the recommendation that cannabis be moved to Schedule III from HHS, the VA will be better positioned to integrate cannabis as an option in its pursuit of providing the best care possible for the veterans it serves. Expanding access to cannabis is strongly supported by the veteran community. According to a recent poll conducted by the Ohio State University, 60 percent of veterans support the full federal legalization of cannabis. Medical cannabis as a treatment option has even more support, with 82 percent of veterans surveyed saying they want medical cannabis as a federally legal treatment option. The federal government should not be denying the voice of its veterans nor their desire to have equal access to medical treatments afforded to their fellow citizens in states with legal programs are able to enjoy outside of the VHA system.

We understand that the administrative scheduling process involves several steps, but the sooner the DEA moves forward with a reclassification of cannabis, the sooner it could potentially be integrated into the VHA – our nation’s largest healthcare system. A prompt acceptance of the HHS recommendation will allow the VHA to explore innovative approaches to healthcare that are directly targeted to the needs of the veteran community it is dedicated to serving.

We appreciate your commitment to public service and strongly believe that an acceptance of the HHS recommendation of Schedule III will lead to a more robust set of treatment options for our nation’s veterans, including treatments found to not have many of the harmful side effects that result from current options. We look forward to your final decision soon.

Allison Jaslow
Chief Executive Officer, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Joseph Chenelly
National Executive Director, AMVETS

Ernesto P. Hernandez III
Executive Director, American G.I. Forum

Chanin Nuntavong
Executive Director, The American Legion

Donald D. Overton, Jr.
Executive Director, Blinded Veterans Association

Lindsay Church
Executive Director, Minority Veterans of America

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