Marijuana Access For Veterans Hinges On Upcoming House Vote
By Steve Birr
The future of marijuana treatment for America’s veterans rests on an upcoming vote in the House of Representatives that will determine if they can be granted medical access.
The House Rules Committee will convene Monday to determine whether the Veterans Equal Access amendment can be offered for inclusion in the appropriations bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon is hoping bipartisan support for the amendment, which opens up access to medical marijuana for veterans through VA hospitals, can help get it out of the committee and onto the House floor for full debate, reports Military.com.
The amendment successfully passed in the House last year after failing to garner enough support in 2014 and 2015, however budget negotiations in the Senate stripped the measure from the final appropriations bill. The amendment allows VA doctors to recommend marijuana as a treatment option in states with medical legalization and sign the necessary paperwork to ensure the patient can get access.
“All we’re trying to do is make conversations between veterans and their VA providers about all treatment options more accessible,” Blumenauer told Military.com. “We have Republicans, Democrats, and veterans behind this effort. Our hope is that the Rules Committee will take note of the overwhelming bipartisan support for this amendment, show compassion for our veterans, and give us a vote.”
Proposals to loosen federal restrictions on marijuana and open up access to cannabis products for veterans are also gaining bipartisan traction in the Senate. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Veterans Equal Access amendment for the VA appropriations bill July 13.
Building bipartisan momentum for marijuana issues concerning veterans comes on the heels of American Legion, a veterans group with more than 2 million members, formally launching a campaign in May advocating the government open access to the substance for returning service members. It is unclear if the Trump administration, which has been adversarial towards legal pot, will support these efforts.
The current federal classification of marijuana greatly restricts the ability of researchers to study the medical application of cannabis with federal funding. It also prevents doctors at the VA from discussing marijuana for treatment, even if it can cut down or replace a patients daily intake of opioid painkillers.
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