BREAKING: Lawmakers introduce bill renewing push to legalize medical marijuana for military veterans
Veterans seeking to use medical cannabis may finally have the option thanks to two US senators whose proposed legislation filed on Wednesday aims to legalize medical marijuana for former servicemembers. The proposed measure would also allow government doctors to recommend the use of medical marijuana, and assist veterans in accessing and using the drug in accordance with medical marijuana laws in the state in which a patient resides.
In a poll conducted by the American Legion, 82 percent of veterans support having medical cannabis as a federally legal treatment option.
The legislation, titled “Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act,” is co-sponsored by Democratic Senators Bill Nelson (Florida) and Brian Schatz (Hawaii). In addition to giving veterans access to medical marijuana, the bill, should it pass, would allocate $15 million to the VA to conduct studies on the use of medical marijuana in pain treatment, as well as the relationship between access to such programs and the use or abuse of opioid painkillers. Federal data shows that veterans are twice as likely to die from an accidental overdose than non-veterans.
“The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act provides a much-needed system for providing medical cannabis to America's heroes,” said David Mangone, Esq., Director of Government Affairs at non-profit advocacy group Americans for Safe Access in an interview with PotNetwork. “Countless veterans have shared stories with our organization about how medical cannabis has helped them or a fellow soldier deal with the injuries of war like PTSD or chronic pain.”
In addition to the treatment of conditions common to vets such as PTSD, the bill aims to reduce opioid addiction and deaths. According to the findings section of the proposal, not only does medical marijuana show “promise” in treating numerous conditions, including pain, but it just may be a viable alternative to the prescription painkillers which have devastated the veteran community.
“Unfortunately, many veterans are afraid to mention their cannabis use to their VA provider for fear of repercussions,” Mangone added. “It is time that lawmakers honor our country's men and women in uniform by giving our veteran's the treatment they deserve."
Federal law bars VA doctors from prescribing medical marijuana to veterans. That’s not right. I just filed a bill to let these doctors prescribe medical marijuana to vets in Florida and the 30 other states where patients are legally allowed access to it. https://t.co/L5Pofyb7XG
— Senator Bill Nelson (@SenBillNelson) September 5, 2018
Sen, Nelson put out a statement admonishing the government for their current position on medical marijuana when it comes to veterans.
“Federal law prohibits VA doctors from prescribing or recommending medical marijuana to veterans,” the senator said in a statement. “This legislation will allow veterans in Florida and elsewhere the same access to legitimately prescribed medication, just as any other patient in those 31 states would have.”
It’s important to note that in the past both the House and the Senate have approved several amendments aimed at allowing VA doctors to recommend medical cannabis, but none of them have been successful. Earlier this year, a stand-alone bill enabling the VA to research the potential medical benefits of marijuana became the first-ever cannabis related bill to be approved by a congressional committee.