In July 2017, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 24-7 to approve an amendment that would allow vets legal access to medical marijuana as part of the 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. The bill, if met with final approval, would allow physicians at VA hospitals in legal marijuana states to recommend and write medical cannabis prescriptions for veterans. [1]

The amendment is intended “to prohibit the use of funds appropriated or other-wise made available under this Act to interfere with the ability of veterans to participate in medical marijuana programs approved by States or deny services to such veterans.”

VA doctors are currently prohibited from completing the paperwork necessary for their patients to access medical marijuana. The rule has been expired for more than a year, and the VA has yet to author a replacement.

Fortunately, the amendment is now attached to the appropriations bill that pays for VA operations. Hopefully this time it will be a success; in 2016, a similar amendment was pushed through by both the House and Senate, only to be stripped from the appropriations bill by a conference committee.

Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana who sponsored the measure, said the amendment “simply allows the VA patients in states with medical marijuana programs to discuss that option with their VA doctor or physician.” [2]

The American Legion and AMVETS, 2 of the largest and most influential veterans’ groups in the country, have urged the federal government to allow vets access to medical cannabis. The American Legion took the step of sending a letter to President Trump asking for his help in changing the policy.

The letter reads:

“The American Legion respectfully requests a meeting with President Trump as soon as possible and looks forward to partnering with this administration in the fight against narcotics addiction and reducing the veteran suicide rate from the tragic loss of 20 warriors per day, to zero.”

Read: VA Head Comes Out in Support of Marijuana for Vets with PTSD

Trump could support the amendment, or he could veto it or demand that the language once again be yanked from the bill. [3]

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the pro-marijuana organization NORML, said:

“Given the rising level of both public and political support in favor of medical cannabis access, especially for veterans – coupled with the increasing lobbying efforts from veterans’ groups like the American Legion and AMVETS – I would not only anticipate members of the House and Senate to once again approve this reform legislation, but also to do so in greater numbers than last year.

The question that remains, however, is whether high ranking Republicans or the Trump administration will respect this vote, or will they turn their back on the needs of veterans and the will of overwhelming majority of voters.”

Sources:

[1] Merry Jane

[2] The Fresh Toast

[3] LA Weekly


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About Julie Fidler:
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.