The Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment on Wednesday, August 4, that’s meant to enable military veterans to access medical cannabis by allowing Veteran Affairs physicians to grant recommendations in states where it is legal. Sponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley, it’s intended to prevent the VA from interfering with or denying services to vets who choose to indulge in legal marijuana. Sen. Merkley said, per Marijuana Moment, “We have now 36 states that have medical cannabis, and our veterans want to know from their VA doctor what their thoughts are on the pros and cons or appropriate role or challenges of this particular strategy for treating a variety of issues, including PTSD.”
He concluded, “I think it’s really important that we not force our veterans to be unable to discuss this issue with their doctors.” Veterans like Eric Goepel, founder, and CEO of the Veterans Cannabis Coalition, made a note that the language of the measure effectively combines the intent of Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s Veteran Equal Access Act and more recent legislation seeking to codify the Veterans Health Administration Directive 1315. The latter bars VA physicians from taking punitive actions against veterans for disclosing their cannabis use. While the House has approved, on many occasions, legislation to allow VA doctors to issue medical marijuana recommendations to their patients, it’s never been written into law.
This leaves some lawmakers concerned, that government physicians could still be penalized by the Justice Department if they filled out cannabis forms while the substance remains federally illicit even with the VA funding provision. Despite that, it’s still great to see marijuana reform reach the military in some way, shape, or form. Now veterans can go to the dispensary grab some cannabis and some blunt wraps if their VA physician allows it.