Finally, The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives both took action to increase military veterans’ access to medical marijuana as a form of alternative and holistic medicine.
By a stunning vote of 89-8, senators approved a bill deciding May 19th that prevents the Department of Veterans Affairs from spending money to enforce a current policy that prohibits its government doctors from filling out medical marijuana recommendation forms in states where the drug is legal. The House of Representatives approved an amendment to accomplish the same goal by a vote of 233-189 earlier that same day. “We are pleased that both the House and Senate have made it clear that the Veterans Administration should not punish doctors for recommending medicinal cannabis to their veteran patients,” Mike Liszewski, government affairs director for Americans for Safe Access, told Marijuana.com. “Combat veterans are disproportionately affected by several conditions that medical cannabis can effectively treat, including chronic pain, PTSD and traumatic brain injury. We anticipate this amendment will reach the president, and once signed, it will give V.A. physicians another tool in their toolbox to treat the healthcare needs of America’s veterans.” U.S. House and Senate negotiators will meet in a conference committee to discuss and finalize the discrepancies in funding levels and other differing provisions between each chamber’s version of the spending legislation. But since both now include medical marijuana protections for veterans, it is likely that they will make it into the final package sent to President Obama for enactment into law. “I commend my colleagues for showing compassion and supporting our wounded warriors,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who sponsored the amendment on the House floor, said in a press release. “Today’s vote is a win for these men and women who have done so much for us and deserve equal treatment in being able to consult with, and seek a recommendation from, their personal V.A. physician about medical marijuana.” The V.A. policy disallowing its doctors from recommending medical marijuana in states where it is legal actually expired on January 31st but, under the department’s procedures, the ban technically remains in effect until a new policy is enacted. Advocates expect a new policy soon, but aren’t sure what it will say. “This is an historic moment and further proof there is real movement and bipartisan support in reforming outdated federal marijuana policies,” said Blumenauer, of the victory for veterans. “There is more to be done, and I will build on today’s momentum and continue my efforts in catching federal policy up to reflect the views held by a majority of Americans.”