Earlier this week, a House committee blocked a medical marijuana-related amendment from going to a full vote. The proposal would have made it easier for veterans to access medical marijuana in states where it is legal.
Medical Marijuana For Veterans
Under current rules, veterans receiving care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are not able to use medical marijuana programs—even if they live in states where it’s legal. Similarly, current rules do not allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients.
But the amendment—which is called the “Veterans Equal Access” measure—was designed to change all that. Specifically, it would have prohibited federal funds from interfering with a veteran’s ability to use legal medical marijuana programs.
Similarly, the amendment would allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana. They would also be able to fill out paperwork or take any other steps to help patients access it.
The proposal has been debated every year for the past few years. Last year, it passed the Senate with huge support from both parties. But it was eventually removed from the final VA funding bill.
This year, the amendment was again introduced. But, after this week’s decision, it will not show up when lawmakers vote on the 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.
Although the proposal was blocked, there is widespread support for it among both lawmakers and veterans.
“This provision overwhelmingly passed on the House floor last year—and bipartisan support has only grown,” said Earl Blumenauer. The Congressman from Oregon is one of the leading sponsors of the amendment. ” It’s outrageous that the Rules Committee won’t even allow a vote for our veterans. They deserve better. They deserve compassion.”
There is also support among veterans. According to Military.com, the American Legion announced last August that it would start working to get cannabis moved off the Schedule I drug list. If that happened, it would make it easier to research cannabis. It would also be a step toward making it legal.
For supporters of the amendment, it’s all about giving veterans safe options.
“We would be far better off if our veterans had access to medical marijuana and less reliance on opioids, which is literally killing them,” said Blumenauer. “Given that veterans are more likely to commit suicide or die from opiate overdoses than civilians, our fight to provide them safer alternatives won’t stop here.”
Final Hit: House Committee Blocks Attempt to Let VA Docs Recommend Marijuana
This amendment is part of a larger debate about cannabis. Federal anti-weed laws are at the heart of the issue. The reason VA doctors can’t recommend medical marijuana is that it’s funded by federal money. And since the federal government still outlaws cannabis, that money can’t be used for giving people access to it. More and more, veterans groups are pushing for medical marijuana. After this week’s setback, lawmakers and veterans said they will continue pushing to get the amendment passed.