The Senate could vote on an additional marijuana-related amendment to a must-pass decree filed on Thursday, November 4. Unfortunately, it’s not the marijuana banking legislation that investors have been waiting for –although it would have a mass impact on federal policy nevertheless. The new bill – filed by Senators Brian Schatz, Bernie Sanders, Tim Kaine, Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden, Jacky Rosen, Alex Padilla, and Gary Peters – would add rhetoric to the National Defense Authorization Act to federally legalize medical marijuana for military veterans who comply with a state program where they reside.
Physicians with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs would also be allowed for the first time to issue recommendations. Furthermore, it would require Veteran Affairs to research the therapeutic properties of cannabis for pain and reducing opioid use. Also on Thursday, Nov. 4, the House Veterans Affairs Committee approved a bill that would require Veteran Affairs to conduct clinical trials on the medical benefits of marijuana for military veterans with severe pain and PTSD.
The Senate defense legislation amendment corresponds to a standalone bill – the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act – that Schatz submitted in April. That piece of legislation has eight cosponsors, while a House collective version has 14 cosponsors. Under the current federal policy, Veteran Affairs permits its physicians to talk about marijuana use with veterans; however, they’re prohibited from issuing recommendations that would allow their patients to obtain medical cannabis from state-legal markets.
Previous versions of the legislation were brought before Congress but did not progress further. For the fiscal years of 2022 and 2023, the bill would put aside $15 million for Veteran Affairs to carry out the mandated medical marijuana research. The legalization and physician approbations provisions of the legislation would terminate after five years unless renewed by Congress.
Currently, the research and veterans provisions are the only marijuana-related measures that have been filed. Still, the date on which the overall legislation will come to the Senate floor remains obscure. It’s great to see marijuana reform moving forward and progressing towards federal legalization, starting with our veterans.