Congressional lawmakers last week reintroduced bipartisan legislation allowing veterans to use medical marijuana and requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to study the medical potential of cannabis. The legislation, known as the Safe Marijuana Veterans Act, was introduced in the Senate last week by Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and in the House of Representatives by California Democratic Representative Barbara Lee, co-sponsored by Representative Dave Joyce, Republican of Ohio, Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and nearly a dozen additional legislators. The Senate version of Schatz is co-sponsored by seven Democratic senators and Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont.
“In 41 states and territories and Washington, D.C., physicians and their patients can use medical marijuana to manage pain or treat a wide range of diseases and disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder—unless those physicians work for the Department of Veterans Affairs and their patients are veterans.” Schatz said In a press release. “Our bill would protect veteran patients in these jurisdictions, give Virginia physicians the option to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans and highlight how medical marijuana can help tackle the nation’s opioid epidemic.”
Virginia physicians cannot officially recommend medical cannabis
Currently, VA physicians are allowed to discuss the medical benefits of cannabis with their patients, but they are not allowed to recommend treatment or complete the paperwork needed to allow its use, even in states that have legalized medical marijuana. As a result, veterans who want to use cannabis medicinally are required to obtain a will at their own expense, obtain their medication from the illegal market or purchase legal recreational cannabis, often at much higher tax rates than the medical market.
Veterans in Oregon and nationwide are unfairly and unacceptably stuck in a legal gray area when discussing medical cannabis with their physician. Wyden said in the current situation. Veterans deserve the opportunity to explore different treatments with their physician without fear of prosecution or employment repercussions. The Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act would protect veterans who use medical cannabis while also directing the Department of Veterans Affairs to research how medical cannabis can help veterans manage their health and well-being. I will fight hard to get this bill over the finish line and help veterans get the care they deserve and that they got through their service.”
Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act for Veterans (Human Resources 2682) creates temporary protection for five years for veterinarians who use medical marijuana and allows VA doctors to discuss and recommend cannabis as a treatment for their ailments. The bill would also allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to study the potential of cannabis in treating chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Previous versions of the bill have been introduced during the past three congresses, but lawmakers have failed to approve the measures.
Supporters of the legislation point out that veterans are twice as likely to die from an opioid overdose as non-veterans. Joyce said, “There is a growing body of evidence about the beneficial uses of medical cannabis as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain, two horrific conditions that plague many of our veterans.”
“If the state makes it legal, like Ohio The federal government should not prevent a Virginia doctor from recommending medical cannabis if they believe the treatment is appropriate for their patient. Joyce added. “As the son of a World War II veteran wounded on the battlefield, I have seen firsthand the many challenges our nation’s heroes face upon returning home. I am proud to join my colleagues in advancing this important law and will continue to do everything in my power to ensure our veterans are provided The care they need to overcome the wounds of war.”
The Veterans Medical Sanctuary Act supported by veterans groups
The legislation drew support and quick praise from veterans’ groups and organizations working to reform cannabis policy in the country, including the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), AMVETS, VoteVets, Minority Veterans of America, Cannabis Veterans Alliance, Veterans of the Cannabis Project , National Marijuana Law Reform Organization (NORML), National Cannabis Roundtable, American Pain Foundation, Drug Policy Alliance, Veterans Initiative 22, National Cannabis Industry Association, Council on Federal Hemp Regulations, Americans for Safe Access, and the Hawaii Cannabis Industry Association.
“We strongly support the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act and are thrilled to see it reintroduced in the current Congress by Senator Schatz today. Having such strong bipartisan support from policymakers in both the Senate and the House, including Congressman Joyce and Congressman Lee, is encouraging for veterans and advocates who often see their causes lost in federal change,” Written by the Cannabis Veterans Project In a statement April 19. “The reforms proposed by this legislation could not be more direct or necessary. Physicians and patients nearly everywhere are allowed to prescribe and consider medical marijuana for treatment. Veterans who seek Medicare from the VA are unfairly excluded from this process. In our capacity A nonprofit organization with thousands of veteran supporters, we strongly believe that veterinarians should be able to safely explore medical cannabis with Virginia Doctors.”