Senate Confirms New Jersey Medical Marijuana Official To Lead Of VA, Says Administration Should Legalize Marijuana





The U.S. Senate has confirmed 33-year-old Shereef Elnahal as undersecretary of health at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.). In his new role, Elnahal will oversee a $200 billion budget and more than 1,700 facilities nationwide—and advocates are hoping that he will stave off the bureaucratic blocks that have prevented V.A. doctors from recommending medical marijuana.


Elnahal and advocates are hoping that he will stave off the bureaucratic blocks that have prevented V.A. doctors from being able to recommend medical marijuana.



Elnahal and advocates are hoping that he will stave off the bureaucratic blocks that have prevented V.A. doctors from being able to recommend medical marijuana.


The Veterans Health Administration, which runs the sprawling network of hospitals and clinics across the country, has cited federal law in preventing medical providers from recommending medical marijuana. While it is legal for states to allow patients access to MMJ, cannabis remains illegal under federal law.



Elnahal was the youngest state health commissioner in the country when Gov. Phil Murphy (D) appointed him at age 34 in 2018. As health commissioner, Elnahal oversaw a significant expansion of New Jersey's medical cannabis program and helped implement legislation to create a legally regulated marijuana industry in the state.



Elnahal was the youngest state health commissioner in the country when Gov. Phil Murphy (D) appointed him at age 34 in 2018. As health commissioner, Elnahal oversaw a significant expansion of New Jersey's medical cannabis program and helped implement legislation to create a legally regulated marijuana industry in the state.


According to his LinkedIn page, he previously worked as an emergency room physician at hospitals across New York City, including Roosevelt Hospital in West Harlem and Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center on Manhattan's Upper East Side. He also served as an assistant professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons from 2010 through 2016 before joining Hackensack Meridian Health as their chief medical officer for population health management from 2017 through 2018



During his confirmation hearing last month, Elnahal told senators that he sees medical cannabis as an opportunity for research at the V.A.—currently held up by federal prohibition. He also said he would review policies around veterans' access to medical marijuana.



The Senate has confirmed an official who expanded New Jersey's medical cannabis program and backed federal legalization.


During his confirmation hearing last month, Elnahal told senators that he sees medical cannabis as an opportunity for research at the V.A.—currently held up by federal prohibition. He also said he would review policies around veterans' access to medical marijuana.


Elnahal has a background in medicine and public health, with experience working at hospitals and state health departments in California and New Jersey.



The Senate has passed Shereef Elnahal as undersecretary of health at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.), who wants to end federal marijuana prohibition and allow V.A. doctors to recommend cannabis.



The Senate has passed Shereef Elnahal as undersecretary of health at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.), who wants to end federal marijuana prohibition and allow V.A. doctors to recommend cannabis.


Elnahal, also an assistant professor of surgery at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, was confirmed by a vote of 99-0 on Thursday afternoon. He has been nominated for this position since December 2017 but delayed his confirmation due to partisan gridlock over other issues and government shutdowns.


As undersecretary for health, he oversees hundreds of V.A. hospitals across the country and manages more than 900 thousand staff members who provide medical care and benefits services for veterans annually. The VA is one of America's largest employers and provides health insurance coverage through Medicare or Medicaid for around 24 million people yearly--more than any other organization in the U.S. healthcare system.



Conclusion



We are excited to see how much of an impact Elnahal will have on the V.A.'s policies regarding medical cannabis, and we hope he will be able to expand access for veterans who want to use it. We also look forward to seeing what he can do about the nationwide federal ban on cannabis that stands in the way of research and clinical trials by university researchers.