The House Veterans Affairs’ Subcommittee on Health will take up California Representative Lou Correa’s legislation (titled the VA Cannabis Research Act) mandating the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs lead clinical trials on the treatment of PTSD and chronic pain with marijuana.
“California was the first state in the union to legalize cannabis way back in 1996,” Rep. Correa said. “So far, we know cannabis is good for seizures, glaucoma, chronic pain, PTSD, and god knows what are the [other] things it’s good for. But we won’t know until we do the medical research, and we cannot do medical research until cannabis is declassified at the federal level.”
It’s unclear where Veteran’s Affairs will stand on the measure at next week’s subcommittee meeting. In the past, the VA opposed a variety of marijuana reform proposals. In 2019, the VA came out against a series of bills designed to expand research into the plant’s therapeutic potential, protect benefits for veterans who use marijuana, and allow the department’s doctors to recommend medical cannabis. In 2018, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved a marijuana reform bill by passing a version of legislation to encourage Veterans Affairs to research the medical benefits of cannabis.
Advocates remain optimistic that the Biden administration will back the reform this time, but a Veterans Affairs representative said the Biden administration is opposed to the reform.
Earlier this year, a bipartisan grouping of congressional lawmakers reintroduced bills that, if passed, would federally legalize medical marijuana for military veterans and several states are focusing on Veterans as they implement marijuana programs and reform.
In January, Rep. Greg Steube introduced a proposal to ensure military veterans aren’t penalized for using medical cannabis in compliance with state law. Veterans Affairs doctors are permitted to discuss cannabis usage with patients and document it in their medical records. Current agency policy shields those veteran patients from losing their benefits for marijuana — but Stuebe’s bill would put those policies into federal statute so that no administration could change them in the future.
Medical marijuana usage has become commonplace across widely varying communities and people and has shown benefits for a variety of illnesses and ailments. Additionally, congressional leaders are working to end federal marijuana prohibition.