The Republican led Congress blocked several marijuana bills this week.
It has been a dramatic week for Congress. A Democratic sit-in to try and force a vote on gun control lasted approximately 24 hours. The vote never took place. However, Congress did find time to act on several marijuana bills.
On Wednesday night, many were surprised when the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) released details on spending that did not include provisions to allow veterans to seek medical marijuana at VA hospitals.
Last month, the U.S. Senate and House both approved bills to allow veterans to acquire medical marijuana through the VA system. The expected provisions were not included in the new spending package.
While there has not been adequate research on marijuana use for veterans, the link between marijuana and pain relief is well documented. Additionally, many veterans have personally stated that marijuana is far more effective for their pain and PTSD symptoms than potentially addictive opiate based medications.
The lack of access through the VA could push veterans to obtain marijuana illegally or through medical marijuana dispensaries (if they live in a state that has approved medical marijuana). Unfortunately, this could either present legal trouble or financial difficulty since purchasing at a dispensary would be an out of pocket cost.
The issue has continued to frustrate veterans, advocates, and even some in congress.
“I have been deeply troubled about our inability to adequately deal with our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said in May.
“The death rate from opioids among VA health care is nearly double the national average … What I hear from veterans is that medical marijuana has helped them deal with pain and PTSD, particularly as an alternative to opioids,” he said.
Another bill blocked this week was aimed at addressing the lack of banking for marijuana companies. As mg recently discussed, marijuana dispensaries are forced to operate as exclusively cash businesses. This makes day-to-day operations more difficult, harder for authorities to keep track of, and makes shops a target as marijuana and cash are stored in the same premises.
Congressional members also blocked local Washington D.C. authorities from using funds to launch a retail marijuana market despite the District of Columbia voting to approve the market in 2014.