The directive is meant to clarify the discrepancy between federal and state law regarding the use of medical cannabis.
Under VA rules, veterans can be denied services if they are discovered to be using illegal drugs, which until now included cannabis.
According to some experts, the policy led many patients to distrust their physicians or avoid the VA health system.
The new guidance does not allow VA physicians to begin prescribing medical cannabis and applies only to veterans in states like California, which have legalized the herb’s use.
Physicians still may alter a patient's treatment regimen to account for cannabis use, or choose not to prescribe additional pain medication based on possible drug interactions
VA Undersecretary for Health Robert Petzel has sent a letter to Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access, which has worked closely with VA on the issue, outlining the new policy. The guidelines will be distributed to the department's 900 facilities within the next week.