House Committee Passes Legislation to Expand Veterans’ Cannabis Access

HR 712 and HR 1647 will proceed to Congress for consideration.

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Image: Bumble Dee / Shutterstock.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) today passed two bills regarding veterans’ cannabis access.

The Veterans Equal Access Act (HR 1647), sponsored by Congressman Ed Blumenauer (D-Ore.), was passed in committee by a vote of fifteen to eleven, according to media reports.

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The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2019 (HR 712), sponsored by Congressman Lou Correa (D-Calif.), was also voted on by the committee and passed with no opposition. The bill would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct clinical trials to research the results of cannabis treatment for veterans with chronic pain and PTSD.

“Today’s committee vote is an encouraging step forward for federal cannabis reform. Now that a majority of states have legalized cannabis for medical use, it is indefensible to restrict veterans’ ability to access medical cannabis through their VA providers while members of Congress can use their federally subsidized health insurance to obtain medical cannabis recommendations from their doctors. Federal law should not criminalize veterans for trying to find relief,” said Don Murphy, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project.

“Passing these bills should be the first order of business for a Congress that prides itself on supporting our veterans. Like every American, veterans should be granted the freedom to access cannabis to treat their medical conditions as an alternative to potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals,” Murphy added.

Working with national cannabis advocacy group NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law), Blumenauer said in a letter that HR 1647, after approval in committee, would go on to a vote in Congress before becoming law, if approved.

“I introduced the Veterans Equal Access Act, HR 1647, because it is my responsibility as a member of Congress to ensure that all Americans have access to medical treatment as recommended by their physicians,” Blumenauer said in a letter today.

Blumenauer urged constituents, cannabis advocates, veterans, and other interested parties to contact their congress members, and support the Veterans Equal Access Act.

“The reefer madness days are done and it’s time for Congress and the VA to face the facts surrounding marijuana—most pointedly, its medicinal benefits for veterans. More and more veterans are reportedly using cannabis to help alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress, chronic pain, and several other ailments,” Blumenauer continued.

Those who wish to contact their congress members were also directed to the NORML website, where comment to Congress could be submitted via automated online form.

“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. Passage of either of these bills would lift this prohibition,” NORML said on its website.

“A recently released poll conducted by The American Legion showed that nearly one-in-four veterans self-reported using marijuana to alleviate a medical or physical condition,” NORML went on to say. “Our veterans deserve the option to legally access a botanical product that is objectively safer than the litany of pharmaceutical drugs it could replace.”

A 2019 study of veterans using medicinal cannabis, cited by NORML, said, “Among 24,089 eligible respondents, 420 (1.7 percent) reported a current clinical diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. In total, 106 (28.2 percent) people with post-traumatic stress disorder reported past-year cannabis use, compared to 11.2 percent of those without post-traumatic stress disorder.”

To contact your congress member, click here.

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