Update: Identical language was introduced in the House by Representative Earl Blumenauer and cosponsored by 9 Republicans and 9 Democrats. House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions blocked the amendment from consideration.
Update: The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 24-7 to include the amendment as part of the 2018 MilCon-VA bill.
The Veterans Equal Access Amendment, which would expand medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans, is expected to be offered to the 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations (MilCon-VA) bill.
Presently, V.A. doctors are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician.
Last year, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 MilCon-VA bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote. We must not allow a similar outcome again this year. Lawmakers must stop playing politics with veterans’ health and pass and enact this amendment.
Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications to treat conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress. A retrospective review of patients' symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction on a scale of post-traumatic symptom scores following cannabis therapy. This is why, in recent months, two of the largest veterans’ rights groups -- AMVETS and the American Legion -- have resolved in favor of patients’ access to cannabis therapy.
Our veterans deserve the option to legally access a botanical product that is objectively safer than the litany of pharmaceutical drugs it could replace.