On Thursday, two House representatives reinstated bipartisan legislation to allow military veterans access Medical marijuana. The bill, the Veterans Equal Access Act, was reintroduced in the House by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, and Republican Representative from Florida Brian Mast, who lost both legs while serving in the military in Afghanistan.
“I woke up in a situation where I was on maybe 20 different drugs of various kinds. I was, I had a Dilaudid instillation, I had oral morphine and [oxycodones] and epidural” said the mast Spectrum News. “I had anti-inflammatories, tranquilizers for heavy sleepers, and antidepressant things that I hadn’t used or even thought of, or you could even say names of, before in my life.”
If passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, the Veterans Equal Access Act would allow physicians at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facilities to make recommendations regarding legal medical cannabis for the state. Under current regulations, VA doctors are not allowed to complete the paperwork necessary for military veterans to use medical marijuana in states that have legalized the medical use of cannabis.
“We lose nearly two dozen veterans a day who commit suicide,” Blumenauer said. “We’ve seen a case where, unfortunately, Veterans Assistance, which is not on board, [with] It gives access to medical marijuana, and has been distributing opiates such as Tic Tacs. I think there are some changes happening. I’ve been in talks with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, but this is a long overdue step.”
The Veterans Equal Access Act has been introduced into Congress with bipartisan support several times over recent years, and the legislation has received approval at the committee level. But so far, backers of the bill have been unable to pass the measure.
“Today was a historic day for our veterans. We have worked for years to fix this counterproductive policy that forces veterans outside of the VA to receive legal medical cannabis treatment for chronic pain and PTSD,” Blumenauer said When the bill was approved by the House Veterans Affairs Committee in March 2020. “This is the culmination of the tremendous work of our movement, but we are not done until this becomes the law of the land. We must reform our federal policy on hemp.”
Bill enjoys broad bipartisan support
Blumenauer said the VA does not support legislation to give veterans access to medical cannabis. But veterans groups including AMVETS and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) support the bill.
“Some veterans across the country are hesitant even to use VA health care because they worry about having to discuss the cannabis products they legally put in their bodies with VA physicians,” said Brittany Damon, co-director of the VFW.
The Veterans Equal Access Act is also supported by cannabis policy reform groups including the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the Drug Policy Coalition, as well as representatives from the regulated cannabis industry. Savera Gallup, executive director of the National Cannabis Roundtable, said the bill would open up new treatment options for veterans in states that have legalized medical marijuana.
“It is inconceivable to deny our veterans equal access to the full range of medical treatments and options available to all other adults in the 37 states with medical cannabis programs,” Gallup said in a statement from the cannabis industry trade group. “VA physicians should be allowed to discuss medical cannabis and make recommendations on state legal programs for the veterans they serve, and we thank Congressman Blumenauer and Congressman Mast for their dedication to moving this important action forward at the 118th Congress. NCR was honored to attend today’s announcement, and bipartisan support for the bill much needed.”
The Veterans Equal Access Act has been referred to the House Veterans Affairs Committee, where it awaits further consideration. The full text of the bill is available Connected.