January 16, 2018

Following VA Refusal To Study Medical Cannabis, Ranking Member Walz Asks VA To Specify Barriers To Research

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-MN), released the following statement after he and four other Democratic members of the committee sent a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Dr. David Shulkin to clarify and reiterate their October 26 request for VA to begin research into medical cannabis and for VA to specify any and all barriers to VA-led research into medical cannabis. Today’s letter was sent in response to VA’s refusal to conduct research into medical cannabis’s effect on veterans suffering from PTSD and chronic pain, which was conveyed to the committee in a letter from Secretary Shulkin dated December 21. Ranking Member Walz was joined by Representative Takano (D-CA), Representative O’Rourke (D-TX), Representative Correa (D-CA), and Representative Peters (D-CA) in sending the letter.

“I have heard the stories of veterans who have used cannabis medicinally to help them cope with physical and psychological injuries of war," said Rep. Walz, highest ranking listed servicemember ever to serve in Congress. “Not only have I heard these stories, but I know Secretary Shulkin, who still practices medicine at VA, has heard them as well. That is why I found VA's response to my October 26 letter so disappointing and unacceptable.”

"In my October 26 letter, I and nine other Democrats urged Secretary Shulkin to begin VA research into medical cannabis as a means to help wounded veterans cope with conditions such as PTSD and chronic pain, conditions which are too often treated with dangerous opioids that put veterans' lives at risk. In the letter, we also asked Secretary Shulkin to identify any and all barriers to such research. VA's response not only failed to answer our simple question, but they made a disheartening attempt to mislead me, my colleagues, and the veteran community in the process. They claimed, without citing any specific law, that VA is restricted from conducting research into medical cannabis, which is categorically untrue. They also go on to make additional excuses while demonstrating a severely limited understanding of existing medical cannabis research in the process. 

"That is why today I am once again leading my Democratic colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary Shulkin to clarify and reiterate our request from October 26. As is clear from the letter, we are specifically interested in VA research into the impact of medical cannabis on veterans suffering from chronic pain and PTSD. If there is indeed legislative action needed, I sincerely hope Secretary Shulkin will clearly identify the steps Congress must take so that VA may begin their research without delay.

"Once again, I am proud to stand with the more than 90% of veterans who support VA research into medical cannabis, and I hope Secretary Shulkin, Attorney General Sessions, and President Trump will too.”

Read Representative Walz’s October 26 letter here.

Read Secretary Shulkin’s December 21 letter here.

Read Representative Walz’s January 16 letter here.