Bipartisan congressional lawmakers are making another push to provide protections for military veterans who use medical marijuana in legal states, as well as doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) who issue recommendations to allow participation in such programs.
Two amendments to enact the reform have been filed for the Fiscal Year 2024 spending bill covering Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies (MilCon/VA).
The text of the amendments are identical, but they’re being sponsored by different sets of lawmakers.
One comes from the co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dave Joyce (R-FL) and Barbara Lee (D-CA).
The other is being sponsored by Reps. Greg Steube (R-FL), Nancy Mace (R-SC) and Dina Titus (D-NV).
“I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard veterans tell me that medical marijuana saved their life,” Blumenauer told Marijuana Moment on Wednesday. “Our bipartisan amendment is a critically overdue step that will benefit millions of our veterans who deserve equal access as their civilian counterparts to state-legal marijuana programs.”
While it’s not clear why two different bipartisan groups of lawmakers filed duplicate versions of the same amendment, they would each add language the base spending bill to prevent VA from using any funds to “interfere with the ability of a veteran to participate in a medicinal marijuana program approved by a State.”
The department also couldn’t use funds to deny services to veterans who are participating in state medical cannabis programs or to “limit or interfere with the ability of a health care provider of the Department to make appropriate recommendations, fill out forms, or take steps to comply with such a program.”
The measures would have to be made in order by the House Rules Committee in order to receive floor consideration. It’s unclear if that’ll happen, however, especially after the same panel blocked more than a dozen cannabis and psychedelics amendments that were filed for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last week.
That included a similar amendment from the Cannabis Caucus co-chairs to allow VA doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations to veterans living in states where marijuana has been legalized for therapeutic purposes.
The Rules Committee has not yet scheduled a meeting to consider the MilCon/VA appropriations bill.
Meanwhile, Democratic senators are seeking to pass a series of marijuana reform amendments through its version of the NDAA.
One of the proposals, led by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), would allow veterans to use medical cannabis in states and territories where its legal, mirroring a standalone bill that the senator introduced in April.
It would additionally protect doctors who discuss and fill out paperwork to recommend medical marijuana for veterans. And it would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to support clinical trials investigating the therapeutic effects of cannabis in the treatment of conditions such as pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that commonly afflict veterans.
It’s currently unclear if Senate Democrats and Republicans will reach an agreement on inserting any of the amendments in the final bill—or if the GOP-controlled House would be willing to go along with them if they are ultimately attached on the Senate side.
Over 90 percent of U.S. military veterans who use medical marijuana say that it improves their quality of life, with many using cannabis as an alternative to over-the-counter and prescription medications, according to a new study.
Separately, the Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved an amendment to allow VA doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations and released a report for the relevant spending bill that calls on the department to facilitate medical marijuana access for veterans and explore the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
House and Senate appropriators have also approved large-scale annual spending bills that once again include language to protect state medical cannabis programs, as well as a controversial rider to block Washington, D.C. from implementing a system of regulated marijuana sales. (Full Story)