NEWS
Veteran Affairs Employees Are Also Prohibited From Using Cannabis
Like every other federal agency, the VA will fire any employee who tests positive for weed. Fortunately, the legislative push to reform the VA's policies grows stronger every year.
Published on March 12, 2020

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) just sent a new memo to all of its employees reminding them that they can be fired for using cannabis, even in a state where it is legal.

The memo, signed by VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, serves as a “self-explanatory, simple reminder” that any employee working for the department must “refrain from using illegal drugs on and off duty,” Military Times reports. “Marijuana is illegal under federal law. Even though some states have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes, marijuana, marijuana extracts, and tetrahydrocannabinols are illegal for human use under federal law.”

“VA employees are not permitted to use marijuana on or off duty under the provisions of VA’s Drug-Free Workplace Program,” the memo continues. “There is no legitimate medical explanation for a marijuana positive test result, other than a verified prescription of certain FDA-approved drugs. A prescription for medical marijuana is not an acceptable medical explanation for a positive drug test.”

The new memo should come as no surprise. Literally every other government agency also bans the use of cannabis, regardless of state legality. Most federal agencies, including the Air Force, Navy, Marines, and NASA have even gone so far as to ban employees and service members from using CBD. Although CBD is now legal under federal law, most CBD products contain trace levels of THC. Federal policies require that any employee who fails a test for THC — even if it was only a trace component in a legal CBD medicine — must be fired.

This extreme prohibition is grounded in the fact that the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug with no medical value. Based on these grounds, the VA office refuses to allow any of its doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans, despite ample clinical evidence showing that this natural medicine can treat symptoms of PTSD or chronic pain.

Progressive lawmakers have been fighting to reform the government's archaic cannabis policies for years now, with little success. Last year, legislators proposed a bill that would allow veterans and government employees to use state-legal cannabis without fear of losing their jobs, but the bill did not succeed.

Previous bills to reform the VA's medical cannabis policies have also failed, but legislators may have a greater chance at success this year. This week, a Congressional committee approved two bills to expand veterans' access to medical marijuana, the first time in 2020 that Congress has advanced a weed-related bill.

One of these bills would allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans in states where it is legal, and the other would require the VA to conduct research on how cannabis could help treat conditions commonly suffered by veterans. Both of these bills were shot down last year, but the committee's strong early approval offers a glimmer of hope that lawmakers may finally begin to give veterans an alternative to addictive pharmaceutical drugs.

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Chris Moore
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Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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