The US Department of Veterans Affairs says Michigan vets will not lose their federal benefits if they legally use medical marijuana. The VA's statement is a response to the state's decision to add post-traumatic stress disorder to its medical marijuana program.
Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) Director Steve Arwood approved the change a couple weeks ago. But he urged veterans to consult with a VA representative first. He said it was unclear whether using medical marijuana would put their federal benefits at risk.
But some veterans and patients advocates say the VA has said for years that it will not penalize someone under its drug policies if they are a state-registered medical marijuana patient.
"This policy on medical marijuana makes it very clear that those do not apply when a veteran is using medical marijuana per doctor's orders under a state program," said Michael Krawitz, executive director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access.
"Once you do that and you have your recommendation, you have your cards or whatever that you get to show that you're in compliance with state law, you really shouldn't feel any hesitation about bringing that to the attention of your doctor at the VA."
Krawitz says he's concerned Arwood's statement could scare some people away from that option of treating their PTSD or other ailments with medical marijuana.
"Hearing that kind of warning, I'm afraid, would just make it a non-starter," he said. "That would be it. That would be the end of that. Because there's just no way that you're going to go into the VA and start asking them about marijuana. It would just make it obvious that, sure, it was passed at the state level, but until we do something at the federal level we can't do anything. And that's just wrong."
Officials with the VA say doctors working in its hospitals or clinics cannot recommend use of medical marijuana or fill out the paperwork needed to get a medical marijuana card in Michigan.