A major study about marijuana's effects on treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) began last February, but so far it's been difficult to make any conclusions. And the reason is obstruction from Veterans Affairs' hospitals.

Arizona psychiatrist Sue Sisley has been trying to study marijuana's ability to help those suffering with PTSD since 2009. After finally getting approval to begin in February, she's been able to enroll 25 subjects. But Sisley says she needs at least 76 people in the study to make any reasonable conclusions, but the Phoenix VA hospital is not cooperating.

"Despite our best efforts to work with the Phoenix VA hospital and share information about the study," Sisley writes in a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, "they have been unwilling to assist by providing information to their patients and medical staff about a federally legal clinical trial happening right in their backyard that is of crucial importance to the veteran community."

She says if the current rate of recruitment continues, the study will not finish within the timeframe required by the $2.2 million grant she received from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The hospital points out that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, and they cannot recommend their patients to engage in illegal activity. Sisley's reaching out directly to Shulkin to intervene and allow her to actively recruit at the hospital for her study.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has a complicated relationship with medical marijuana. Despite substantial evidence that cannabis can treat many afflictions and conditions suffered by veterans, VA hospitals and doctors are barred from prescribing marijuana even in states where it's legal. 

Many veterans' organizations, including the American Legion, have openly called on the Department to allow VA doctors to prescribe marijuana. And Shulkin himself has previously expressed some openness to allowing veterans to use medicinal cannabis.

But it looks like until the federal government wises up and makes marijuana legal, veterans will continue to have restricted access to all their medical options.

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