Leaked Emails Show VA Officials Wanted to Push Cannabis for Veterans But Feared Trump Administration Wouldn't Agree

In recent months Congress has debated and argued with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) about providing medical marijuana to former soldiers. But it turns out the Department wasn't their actual obstacle.

Recently leaked emails show that high-ranking officials in the VA wanted to provide medical marijuana to veterans, but feared the Trump administration wouldn't go along with it. In one email Jake Leinenkugel, the senior White House advisor for VA issues, wrote about the possibility of allowing veterans to use medicinal cannabis, and wrote that it is the "Right Thing to Do." Scott R. Blackburn, the then interim deputy secretary for the VA, wrote back, "I would think we would all be for this. You would know better than I would, but I would think the resistance might come from the DOJ/administration. I agree with you that it is the right thing to do."

Despite pressure from veterans' groups and politicians, the VA continued to institute policies that would prevent veterans from gaining access to medicinal cannabis even in states where it was legal. But it appears those policies were not necessarily the choice of the VA, but rather the position they chose based on pressure from the Trump administration.

The fact that Blackburn specifically cites the DOJ as a concern perhaps indicates that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a well-known anti-marijuana crusader, was one of the chief reasons the VA continued their policies.

However, these problems may be a thing of the past. The Senate recently passed a bill funding the department for 2019 that included a provision allowing VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana for veterans in states where it is legal. Although it's not clear yet if that provision will make it into the final version of the bill that needs to pass both the House and Senate.

(h/t Marijuana Moment)


2020 presidential candidate Cory Booker (D-NJ) has announced a plan to grant clemency to thousands of people serving time for federal drug convictions. Last Thursday, Booker released his 'Restoring Justice' plan, which would offer clemency to more than 17,000 individuals who are currently doing time for nonviolent drug convictions. Booker pledged to implement the plan immediately upon taking office via an executive order as a means to address the huge disparities in drug policing.

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