VA would prescribe medical marijuana under Schatz bill
U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) today reintroduced legislation to allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans in the states and territories that have established medical marijuana programs.
“In 41 states and territories and Washington, D.C., doctors and their patients can use medical marijuana to manage pain or treat a wide-range of diseases and disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder – unless those doctors work for the VA and their patients are veterans. Our bill will protect veteran patients in these jurisdictions, give VA doctors the option to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans, and shed light on how medical marijuana can help address the nation’s opioid epidemic,” said Sen. Schatz.
Veterans are twice as likely to die from opioid overdosing as non-veterans, and though the Department of Veterans Affairs has issued guidance allowing doctors to discuss medical marijuana with veterans in states where it is legal, doctors cannot prescribe it and it is unclear if veterans will be protected from federal prosecution or employment ramifications if they use it.
The Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act creates a temporary, five-year safe harbor protection for veterans who use medical marijuana, and directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to research how medical marijuana could help veterans better manage chronic pain and reduce opioid abuse.
Schatz’s bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Dave Joyce (R-Ohio).