Bipartisan Federal Bill Introduced to Allow Veterans Affairs Doctors to Recommend Medical Marijuana

U.S. Representatives Brian Mast (R-FL) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), along with 15 bipartisan cosponsors, have reintroduced the Veterans Equal Access Act (H.R. 2431).

The proposal would expand and facilitate medical cannabis access to military veterans suffering from chronic pain, PTSD, and other serious medical conditions by allowing physicians affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recommend cannabis in compliance with state laws.

Under current law VA healthcare providers are prohibited from making medical cannabis recommendations, even in states where medical marijuana is legal. This forces veterans to receive recommendations from private and often costly physicians.

NORML Political Director Morgan Fox, who attended the press conference announcing the bill’s reintroduction along with several supportive veteran advocacy groups and is working with its sponsors, said “It is long overdue for Congress to advance this important legislation. We know that veterans consume cannabis at greater rates than the general public and that many of them do so to effectively manage symptoms of post-traumatic stress, chronic pain, and anxiety, among other health issues. Further, national polling indicates that some 75 percent of military veterans would consider using cannabis as a treatment option if it were available. Yet, federal law currently forbids VA doctors from recommending medical cannabis to their patients, despite its status as a legal and legitimate medicine in most states.”

Fox notes that this legislation has been previously introduced but failed to make it to the floor of either chamber for a vote as a stand-alone bill. In previous sessions of Congress, majorities in both the House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. Unfortunately, it was not included in the final versions of those bills. This language is expected to be offered as an amendment to federal spending legislation this year as well.

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