Lawmakers put veteran access to medical cannabis back on the table
Lawmakers have revived efforts to ensure America’s veterans can legally obtain and consume medical cannabis in states where it is legal.
The bipartisan Veterans Equal Access Act was reintroduced in the House by Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) and Representative Brian Mast (R-FL). Rep. Mast lost both legs in 2010 while serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and has been a vocal advocate for veterans’ access to cannabis after his own experience with opioid painkillers after his injury.
“If we can make a difference by allowing veterans of the military who have any kind of pain to help deal with that in a way other than the narcotics that they were pouring into us, then we are doing something damn good,” Rep. Mast said in a press conference. “I have seen those narcotics that my brothers and sisters have been on do harm to them that is far worse than what our enemies did to us overseas.”
The bill would allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to discuss medical cannabis with patients who qualify for it in legal states. However, veterans would not be able to obtain cannabis from the VA or bring it to VA facilities.
Under current law, VA doctors cannot recommend medical cannabis as a treatment option, even in legal states. The Veterans Access Bill has been introduced several times but has stalled after pushback from the VA.
“I cannot tell you how many times I’ve visited VA clinics and had veterans tell me that medical marijuana saved their life,” Rep. Blumenauer said in a press release. “This legislation is a long overdue step that will benefit millions of our veterans who deserve equal access as their civilian counterparts to state-legal marijuana programs.”
A recent survey published in the journal Substance Use & Abuse discovered that one in ten veterans uses medical cannabis. However, a limited number have a state-authorized prescription, with researchers concluding:
“Our findings, taken in context with current federal policy, point toward a need for enhanced care coordination among veterans who may benefit from marijuana, but are unable to access it through the VA.”
A 2019 survey of over 400,000 military veterans worldwide revealed that 75% would consider using either “cannabis or cannabinoid products as a treatment option,” with nearly 20% of respondents acknowledging they had used cannabis therapeutically at some time.
The Veterans Equal Access bill would ensure vets get accurate and honest information about medical cannabis and could encourage more to seek it out as a possible treatment.
Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist and Editor of GreenState.com. She has been covering the cannabis space since 2015, and has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, and many other niche publications. Rachelle currently splits her time between Minneapolis and Oakland; her favorite cannabis cultivars include Silver Haze and Tangie. Follow Rachelle on Instagram @rachellethewriter