Senate Okays Medical Marijuana For Veterans, But VA Still Doesn’t Like It

Just hours before Veterans Day, a bipartisan effort in the U.S. Senate demonstrated that some elected officials actually give a damn about the nation’s veterans. An amendment to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, passed on November 10, could allow veterans to access medical marijuana for treatment of PTSD and other disorders.

Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) and Steve Daines (R-Montana) co-sponsored the “Veterans Equal Access” amendment, which passed the committee by an 18-12 vote. Four of the 18 supporters were Republicans. After passing a U.S. House vote, the provision will only be exercised in states that already allow use of medical marijuana.

The Veterans Administration currently prevents its doctors from recommending pot to both active and retired soldiers. Even though VA cites studies that show marijuana (and even pill-form cannabinoids) successfully treats post-traumatic stress disorder – a condition affecting 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan vets – it still diagnoses its use as “Cannabis Use Disorder.”

The Equal Access amendment is overdue for veterans, says Michael Collins of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Veterans in medical marijuana states should be treated the same as any other resident, and should be able to discuss marijuana with their doctor. It makes no sense that a veteran can’t use medical marijuana if it helps them and it is legal in their state.

Almost one-quarter (22.7 percent) of U.S. veterans with PTSD are now using marijuana to help their stress, VA says. The Vets Administration also acknowledges that problems it associates with this therapy (effects on motor coordination and short-term memory) may be individual patient traits, and not necessarily the result of marijuana itself.

This isn’t the first time that Merkley and Daines introduced this concept. The two attempted this measure in the same appropriations bill earlier this year, when it received the same 18-12 vote of committee approval. House Republicans blocked it, though, and with a very close vote of 213-210.

When the bill with this amendment returns to the House, it has a better chance of approval, however, U.S. News & World Report offers. Two of the representatives who voted against the amendment earlier this year – one Republican and one Democrat – have since stated the possibility that they could change their minds. That the overall veterans bill needs quick approval to allow normal benefits should help the “Veterans Equal Access” amendment, too.

Featured image acquired from Pennsylvania Independent

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