The Department of Veteran Affairs may be on the brink of authorizing veterans to medicate with marijuana, to treat conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The U.S Senate Appropriations Committee recently brought in an amendment for military veterans, which would permit the Department of Veteran Affairs to grant medical cannabis recommendations.
When the vote went to the House last year, it won by a sizeable 233 to 189 margin. However, the provisions for this medical cannabis exception were later removed from the bill by a conference committee.
Marijuana Majority founder and chairman Tom Angell is in positive mood about the new developments. He called the increasing desire for cannabis reform in Congress “encouraging,” particularly so given the strong opposition the movement has received from Attorney General Jeff Sessions. This bill for veterans is likely to be the first of many cannabis votes that take place in Washington in the near future, and the fact that this is a rare bipartisan issue is good news for cannabis activists.
Angell explains that House representatives and senators are coming under increasing pressure from constituents to enact change in Congress, who have voiced their firm support for cannabis reform repeatedly at the ballot box.
The war on cannabis products has failed and could be in its final throes. Federal decriminalization is now a realistic prospect within the next few years, something which would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
Republican Senator for Montana, Steve Daines, and Democrat Senator for Oregon, Jeff Merkley have co-sponsored the veterans’ amendment, and Senator Merkley has spoken of how it’s important to stand up for soldiers, given how they have stood up for us.
With this amendment, military veterans will be able to take part in medical marijuana programs run in their state, with no fear of having their military benefits cut or cancelled. The amendment also permits the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend veterans for medical cannabis treatment which fits within the laws of their state.
The Senate passed this amendment in 2016 with a 20-10 vote, and it successfully made it through the House too. It was only due to a special committee meeting that scuppered things.
The change of mind from three Republican senators on this matter is a microcosm of what is having with medical cannabis views in Washington generally. Susan Collins (R-ME), John Hoeven (R-ND) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) have all switched their votes from ‘no’ to ‘yes’ in the past year. A remarkable 46 states have now brought in some degree of medical marijuana legislation.
Americans for Safe Access executive director, Steph Sherer, has called on Congress to pass a permanent law that protects the more than two million Americans using medical cannabis. Sherer mentioned the CARERS Act as effective legislation to pass. Many of the conditions that veterans suffer from are more conducive to medical marijuana treatment than other medication. These include chronic pain, traumatic brain injury and PTSD.
Veterans for Medical Cannabis spokesperson Michael Krawitz has said that veterans should have the right to participate in any state programs for medical marijuana that they want, without fear of reprisal.
It’s not acceptable to leave veterans to suffer with adequate or totally ineffective medication for their conditions. If veterans want to try cannabis, they should be left in peace to do so. For instance, it is believed that THC can help veterans to reduce – or even eliminate – the nightmares and flashbacks they get from experiences of war. Cannabis may also reduce sensitivity to sudden noises and similar shocks.