Sudden Change Strips Veterans’ Access to Medical Marijuana

marijuana law

A lot of times, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. That was the case with a proposal that would have let doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) prescribe medical marijuana to veterans.

It looked like the proposal was close to becoming law, but Congress removed it at the last minute from the VA’s annual budget.

The legislation, which had been sponsored by Oregon lawmakers, had cleared the House and Senate but was axed on June 22 during final closed-door negotiations. Had it passed, the bill would have cleared the way for the VA to recommend medical cannabis to patients in states where it has been legalized.

In a joint statement released June 24, Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Sen. Jeff Merkley, both Democrats from Oregon, said it was “outrageous” that the proposal was pulled from the bill.

They added:

“To add insult to injury, the legislation was released in the middle of the night, not even giving members of the House an opportunity to review the language before voting on it.”

House Republicans brought the stripped version of the bill up for vote on the night of June 23 while attention was focused on the Democrats’ sit-in for gun control legislation.

Read: 21 Lawmakers Push Veterans Affairs to Allow Medical Marijuana

Source: Emory University

The VA budget bill was immediately passed once the medical marijuana proposal had been removed. [1]

Fortunately, it’s not the end of the road for the proposal. Democrats have been rallying against the stripped version of the bill; and, due to the Senate’s failure to pass a procedural vote on a dispute involving the Zika virus, the bill can be reconsidered. This has left the door open for the marijuana provision to be put back in. The entire Military Construction and Veterans Affairs funding bill is expected to be considered on Tuesday, July 5, in what could be a final vote before sending it to President Obama

Eleven legislators, including 10 Democrats and 1 Republican, have written a letter to House and Senate leaders, urging them to restore the provision. [2]

Citing the medical marijuana provision’s “broad bipartisan support,” lawmakers said the proposal “should have been nonnegotiable.”

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., Sen. Merkley, and others wrote:

“We feel the failure of the conferees to include either [the House or Senate] provision is a drastic misfortune for veterans and contrary to the will of both chambers.”

Not a single lawmaker has been willing to take credit for pulling the marijuana provision from the bill. [3]

Last year, a similar effort to allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans also failed when Senate language was dropped by the House.


[1] Stars and Stripes

[2] Military Times

[3] BND