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Senate Commitee Clears Way for Medical Marijuana for Veterans [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #887)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

The Senate Appropriations Committee today approved an amendment that would allow doctors with Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to veterans suffering from PTSD, serious injuries, and other debilitating conditions. The amendment was approved on a vote of 18-12.

The vote marked the first time any Senate body has approved a marijuana reform measure.

The vote came on an amendment to the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The amendment was offered by Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and would undo a 2009 directive barring VA doctors from recommending medical marijuana even in states where it is legal.

Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) specifically prohibits its medical providers from completing forms brought by their patients seeking recommendations or opinions regarding participation in a state medical marijuana program. The Daines/Merkley amendment authorizes VA physicians and other health care providers to provide recommendations and opinions regarding the use of medical marijuana to veterans who live in medical marijuana states.

The House narrowly defeated a similar amendment to its version of the appropriations bill. Now, the two versions of the bill must be reconciled.

Even if the move is killed in conference committee, a legislative version of the amendment is still alive in Congress. That is the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act, sponsored by Sens. Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY).

The vote was lauded by drug reform advocates.

"Veterans in medical marijuana states should be treated the same as any other resident, and should be able to discuss marijuana with their doctor and use it if it's medically necessary," said Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. "They have served this country valiantly, so the least we can do is allow them to have full and open discussions with their doctors."

"A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers came together and passed broadly supported marijuana policy reform. This is exactly how most Americans want Congress to handle this issue. Hopefully we are reaching a point at which it is becoming the norm, rather than the exception. The pace at which support appears to be growing in the Senate is particularly encouraging," said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project.

VA hospital, Durham, North Carolina.
"Doctors should never be prohibited from helping their patients obtain the best possible medical treatment. Many veterans are finding that medical marijuana is the most effective treatment for PTSD and other service-related medical conditions. Finally, Congress is working to remove barriers to accessing it rather than building them," Riffle continued.

"While we won five votes in a row on the House floor last year, this is the first time we've ever won a vote on a positive marijuana reform measure in the Senate," said Tom Angell, director of Marijuana Majority. "And with polls showing that a growing majority of voters supports ending prohibition, it's safe to say it won't be the last. Elected officials are finally starting to wake up to the fact that endorsing marijuana reform is good politics instead of the dangerous third-rail they've long viewed it as, and that means a lot more victories are on the way soon," he predicted.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Mark Mitcham (not verified)

This is outstanding.

No patriotic American, whether pacifist or hawk, would deny a Veteran a medical option available to Civilians.

 But the vote was far from unanimous.  And, we are talking about Senators here, who are also serving their country in a different capacity.  So, there is still a chilling discrepancy here.  But that's the drug war for you!  Hats off to Sens. Daines and Merkley.

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 2:36am Permalink
sicntired (not verified)

As a resident of Vancouver,BC,Canada.I was so sure we would have legal cannabis decades before you,in the USA.Polls have been consistent for years on medical cannabis at around 80% for it.That figure is Canada wide.Legal cannabis itself has polled at over 60% for some time as well.We have medical cannabis,although it's been held in limbo ever since the Harper government tried once again to hand the growing over to a few friends of the PM.I would imagine our soldiers are able to access it as long as they can find a doctor that'll prescribe it.I had a federal license but I lost it when my fight with health BC over opiates for a chronic pain condition(cannabis didn't help the pain)cost me my pain doctor.When I asked my family doctor to sign the re up form,he refused.I went to social media and received a letter that said I could have a doctor sign the papers for $500.I quickly found that the $500 fee was pretty much SOP for BC.I call it extortion.I simply refused to pay it.

Wed, 06/03/2015 - 2:15am Permalink

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