Legislators Reintroduce Bill Allowing VA to Prescribe Medical Marijuana
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) reintroduced legislation to allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans in the 33 states that have established medical marijuana programs.
In addition to creating a temporary, five-year safe harbor protection for veterans who use medical marijuana, the bicameral bill would also direct the VA to research how medical marijuana could help veterans better manage chronic pain and reduce opioid abuse.
“In 33 states, doctors and their patients have the option to use medical marijuana to manage pain—unless those doctors work for the VA and their patients are veterans,” Sen. Schatz said. “This bill gives VA doctors in these states the option to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans, and it also promises to shed light on how medical marijuana can help with the nation’s opioid epidemic.”
“As the daughter of a veteran, I am committed to ensuring that our veterans have access to the quality and comprehensive medical care they deserve—including medical marijuana. The current federal prohibitions on cannabis are unnecessary, harmful, and counterproductive,” said Congresswoman Lee. “The federal government should never stand between our veterans and their medicine. This critical legislation is a long overdue step to empower veterans and their doctors to make informed health care decisions, without political interference.”
The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, cosponsored in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), is supported by the American Academy of Pain Medicine, American Pain Society, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Veterans Medical Cannabis Association, NORML, National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), Americans for Safe Association, Marijuana Policy Project, Drug Policy Alliance, and Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.
“Our members have spoken loud and clear on this issue,” said Tom Porter, legislative director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Eighty-three percent of respondents to our recently-released member survey approved of cannabis use for medicinal purposes. With such overwhelming support, we need to be removing barriers to care for veterans, not maintaining them. IAVA applauds Sen. Schatz for introducing the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act to do just that.”
“When nearly one in four veterans report that they are consuming cannabis for therapeutic purposes, The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act would provide crucial medical and civil protections for the men and women who put their lives on the line to serve this country. It is unconscionable that these brave individuals who stepped up to protect our nation’s freedoms would be treated as criminals when they return home simply for treating their medical ailments with a safe and effective option under state law,” said Justin Strekal, political director for NORML. “We applaud and appreciate the leadership by Sen. Schatz in putting forward this legislation.”