The government is finally going to give veterans a little assistance in getting their medical marijuana. After years of failed attempts on the part of lawmakers and marijuana advocates, the House of Representatives Thursday voted to allow doctor-recommended cannabis into the Veterans Administration health program.
The legislation, called the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, removes a restriction placed earlier by the Department of Veterans Affairs which banned VA doctors from recommending medical cannabis, as reported by the Huffington Post. Though veterans in states with medical marijuana programs could attain doctor recommendations, they had to do so outside of the VA program and pay out of pocket for their cannabis goods.
The amendment was introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and co-sponsored by representatives on both sides of the aisle. It should take effect in 2017, pending the passing of a related spending bill and presidential approval.
“I have been deeply troubled about our inability to adequately deal with our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Blumenauer said after the vote. “A lot of them are suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, traumatic brain injury, and these are all conditions that have been shown to respond to medical marijuana.”
Blumenauer referenced common problems plaguing veterans such as suicide and opioid abuse, clearly upset that a group formed to promote veteran health would stop short of providing a safe medicine that’s legal in 24 states. “The notion that the VA would not allow its doctors to consult with and work with veterans regarding medical marijuana in states where it’s legal I thought was outrageous.”
Like many stories about cannabis legislation, this one signals that support is shifting toward marijuana tolerance and regulation. It’s rare to see bipartisan support for any measure these days, but this democrat-introduced, left-leaning amendment found 57 republican representatives voting in favor of it.
Though the VA had fallen behind the progress of states with MMJ programs, this catches them up with the times. Blumenauer sees the amendment’s passing as part of an ongoing trend. “I’m convinced within five years, everybody in America will have access to some form of medical marijuana,” he said.
Photo via Flickr user Southern Arkansas University