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house Bill H.R. 7128

Should the VA Conduct National Surveys of Veterans’ Medicinal Cannabis Use?

Argument in favor

With a large number of veterans already using medical cannabis as an alternative treatment for a range of ailments, it’s important for the VA to understand their patterns of use and how VA health care providers are accounting for this growing trend in their treatment plans.

Argument opposed

Contracting out to a third party to conduct this survey may not produce accurate results, as veterans and health care providers may not feel comfortable discussing potentially illegal activity with a federal contractor. Additionally, there are other privacy issues related to HIPAA.

What is House Bill H.R. 7128?

This bill, the Department of Veterans Affairs Survey of Medicinal Cannabis Use Act of 2018, would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) enter into an agreement with a federally-funded research and development center to conduct national surveys to measure veterans’ medicinal cannabis use. There would be two surveys: one surveying veterans who use cannabis, and another collecting information from health care providers at the VA.

The survey of veterans using medicinal cannabis would cover:

  • The veteran’s current medicinal cannabis use;

  • The conditions and/or symptoms that the veterans uses cannabis to treat;

  • The types of cannabis and cannabis products the veteran uses, with respect to 1) tetahydrocannabinol or cannabidiol content; 2) indicia, sativa, mixes, or hybrids; and 3) flower, oils, hash or kief, concentrates (wax, shatter, budder), edibles, drinks, tinctures, and topical ointments

  • Other medications the veteran takes concurrently with cannabis, and any medications the veteran stopped taking because of cannabis use;

  • How the veteran is self-administering medicinal cannabis, including: 1) the method; 2) the typical times each day they self-administer; 3) the frequently of different products per day and for what condition and/or symptom, and 4) the amounts per product;

  • Ratings and descriptions of cannabis’ effectiveness in treating conditions and/or symptoms;

  • Any experiences with side effects;

  • The number of different cannabis products tried before settling on the current product;

  • The typical source of medicinal cannabis (i.e., single dispensary, multiple dispensaries, mail order, or other source), the typical purchase frequency, and the typical amount purchased;

  • Sources of information the veteran uses for products and dosages;

  • Factors that influence the veteran’s choice of product (i.e., levels of tetrahydrocannabinol or cannabidiol content, cost, availability, consistency, or strain); and

  • Any other matters deemed appropriate

The VA healthcare provider survey would cover:

  • The healthcare provider’s experience with patients using medicinal cannabis;

  • The healthcare provider’s perception of how medicinal cannabis is changing patients;

  • How treatment plans have been modified after a veteran discloses using cannabis;

  • Any documentation of the products, dosages, or frequency of cannabis use in veterans’ medical records;

  • Adverse events;

  • Source of information the healthcare provider uses with respect to cannabis products and cannabis’ medical effectiveness; and

  • Any other matters deemed appropriate.

After a year, the VA Secretary would submit a report on the surveys’ results to the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs.


Impact

Veterans; medical marijuana; VA doctors; and federally-funded research and development centers.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 7128

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) introduced this bill as part of a trio of legislation that he and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) have introduced to push the VA towards better integrating cannabis into the treatment it provides to veterans:

“Our veterans are seeking alternative options to opioids and we should be supporting their desires not to be addicted to painkillers. Let’s not kid ourselves, people are using marijuana – including our veterans. We have an obligation to regulate it and make it as safe as possible. We also have an obligation to make sure our veterans are getting the best healthcare in the world. We have a long road ahead of us until medicinal cannabis is fully researched and legal but we can take a few steps now to start figuring that out. As someone who still receives healthcare from the VA, I see no reason why veterans healthcare should be behind the eight ball. These bills are an important first step towards finding out what can be most successful as treatment options evolve and change.”

This bill specifically directs the VA to conduct a nationwide survey of all veterans and VA health care providers to learn about how veterans are using medical marijuana.

The legislative package that this bill is part of has been endorsed by drug policy reform groups, including the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Drug Policy Alliance. It also has the support of the National Cannabis Industry Association. While it hasn’t taken an explicit position on this legislative package, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has made “the approval of medical cannabis for every veteran in America who need it” a major legislative priority.

However, while it supports this bill, NORML also points out that the legislative package fails to address allowing VA doctors to fill out state legal medical marijuana recommendation forms. NORML’s Executive Director, Justin Strekal, writes:

“While commendable advances if passed, [Moulton’s] bills fail to include the fix needed most swiftly of VA policy, which would be to allow VA doctors to fill out the necessary state-legal medical marijuana recommendation form in the 33 states that now have laws governing the therapeutic use of cannabis.”

There are three cosponsors of this bill, including two Democrats and one Republican.


Of Note: According to the American Legion, more than one in five American veterans uses marijuana to treat a medical ailment. At 20.3 million veterans in 2016, a conservative estimate (20% of the total veteran population using medical cannabis) puts the total population of veterans using medical cannabis at well over four million.


Media: 

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / LPETTET)

AKA

VA Survey of Cannabis Use Act

Official Title

To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to seek to enter into an agreement with a federally funded research and development center to conduct surveys to measure cannabis use by veterans, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
    IntroducedNovember 14th, 2018
    Cannabis has many medical benefits that help with anxiety and pain. I will be a veteran myself. I have bad anxiety, pains, and migraines. This research could be huge and a more organic way to treat veterans.
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    If I could smoke weed for my PTSD I would. This would help so many Vets like myself. It's not addictive (imo and science opinion) not only that this is better than opioids.
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