At the end of last year, the U.S. Senate approved a spending bill which they hoped would allow veterans access to medical marijuana (as long as they live in a state where it is legal). Unfortunately, that bill was shut down in the House of Representatives with a vote of 213 – 210. The bill would have prohibited the government from using funds to enforce the rules that make it illegal for a VA doctor to openly talk to their patients about medical cannabis.
While it was introduced and defeated late in the year last year, there is still hope for veterans yet. A very similar spending bill was just passed by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee with a vote of 20-10 (which is already better than last year’s 18-20). This bill, like the previous, would allow veterans access to medical marijuana by removing the ability to spend funds on enforcing rules against it.
Even though the House of Representatives narrowly voted against it last year, it didn’t have to be that way. Representative john Garamendi admitted that he misread the amendment and did not mean to vote against it; Representative Morgan Griffith says he would have voted in favor but the measure didn’t go far enough. With revised language and the support of these two representatives this bill would pass just as narrowly as it was rejected last year.
As it stands, there is still more hoops for this amendment to jump through before a final vote by both the House and the Senate before it can be signed into law by the president. However, the interest in allowing veterans access to medical marijuana seems to be growing throughout the country as VA doctors and the government are more and more being criticized for allowing doctors to prescribe dangerous and addictive opiates while leaving no alternative.
The move is “an important step in restoring complete health care options for veterans,” Scott Murphy, president of Veterans for Safe Access and Compassionate Care, told Marijuana.com in an email. “With 22 daily veteran suicides, to include self-immolation on V.A. property, and an opiate epidemic that is affecting the veteran population in higher numbers than the civilian population, it is about time our politicians caught up with the populous views of American voters and take medical cannabis seriously.”
If both the House and the Senate pass this bill, Veterans will finally have all the same options that we do as civilians – something that shouldn’t be taken from them after they risk their lives defending our country. There are already plenty of veterans who are turning to cannabis therapy – even if it means opting out of VA health care all together. That in itself should be enough for the government to realize what they are doing is wrong and something needs to be done to fix it.
Hopefully, long before the end of 2016 we will see this bill signed into law and veterans will finally have legal access to therapeutic cannabis as a treatment option, without fear of losing other benefits.