WASHINGTON, D.C.- Access to medicinal cannabis for veterans may expand if a new bill in Congress is enacted.
The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act would allow veterans to receive medicinal cannabis in states that have legalized its use. The bill introduced by Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) would allow Veterans Affairs doctors to prescribe cannabis to treat PTSD.
“Federal law prohibits VA doctors from prescribing or recommending medical marijuana to veterans,” Nelson said in a statement. “This legislation will allow veterans in Florida and elsewhere the same access to legitimately prescribed medication, just as any other patient in those 31 states would have.”
If this bill is passed, it would be seen as a significant concession on the part of federal authorities. Although 30 states have legalized medicinal cannabis, the drug remains a Schedule I narcotic on the Drug Enforcement Agency’s list of banned substances.
The bill’s authors see cannabis as a safer alternative to opioid medications. According to text in the bill, “states with medical cannabis laws have a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.”
Also included in the bill is a plan to direct $15 million toward researching how cannabis can impact pain for veterans.
Justin Strekal, the political director of NORML, released a statement in support of the Senate bill.
“The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act would provide crucial medical and civil protections for the men and women who put their lives on the line to serve this country,” said Strekal. “It is unconscionable that these brave individuals who protect our nation’s freedoms would be treated as criminals when they return home just for treating their medical ailments with a safe and effective option.”
A similar bill, The Veterans Equal Access Act (HR 1820), is pending in the House.
It is unclear if President Trump would support expanding cannabis access for military veterans. Recently, it was reported that his administration has set up a secret committee tasked with spreading negative information about cannabis.