Congress Votes to Expand Cannabis Access to Vets
For the first time ever, members of the U.S. House and Senate have both approved legislation that expands military veterans’ access to medicinal cannabis in states that allow it.
House members voted 233 to 189 in favor of the Veterans Equal Access Amendment on May 20. The amendment, offered by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, prohibits the federal government from sanctioning VA physicians who wish to provide recommendations to veterans so that they can participate in statewide medical marijuana programs.
The amendment’s House passage is indicative of the growing level of support for cannabis law reform among federal lawmakers. Last year, House members barely defeated a similar amendment, 213 to 210.
Rep. Blumenauer stated:
“One of the greatest tragedies of our time is our failure to adequately deal with the needs of our veterans returning home with wounds both visible and unseen. Giving them access to medical marijuana as an alternative treatment option to deal with chronic pain, PTSD, and other conditions is critical at a time when our veterans are dying with a suicide rate of 50% higher than civilians and opiate overdoses at nearly double the national average. Medical marijuana can be a safer, more effective alternative. I commend my colleagues for showing compassion and supporting our wounded warriors. Today’s vote is a win for these men and women who have done so much for us and deserve equal treatment in being able to consult with, and seek a recommendation from, their personal VA physician about medical marijuana.”
Under the provision, veterans who reside in states with active medical marijuana programs will be able to obtain a recommendation from their VA physician rather than having to seek out a private doctor. Under present law, VA physicians are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary for veterans to access medical cannabis in states that permit its therapeutic use.
The House and Senate versions of FY 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill requires a concurrence vote prior to being sent to the President.
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