This piece first appeared in Cannabis Now.
As it stands, the Department of Veterans Affairs strictly prohibits doctors employed with the federal government from so much as even discussing the subject of cannabis medicine with their patients. However, with the Senate putting their stamp of approval on the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, they have essentially imposed a ban that will prevent the department from using funds to penalize those veterans who take advantage of the medical marijuana programs in their state.
For thousands of veterans across the United States, suffering from conditions ranging from chronic pain to PTSD, this vote will make today one of the most memorable Veteran’s Days in decades.
“Veterans in medical marijuana states should be treated the same as any other resident, and should be able to discuss marijuana with their doctor,” Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. “It makes no sense that a veteran can’t use medical marijuana if it helps them and it is legal in their state.”
The brass tacks of the bill suggests that no money given to the Department of Veterans Affairs will “interfere with the ability of a veteran to participate in a State-approved medicinal marijuana program” or “deny any services from the Department to a veteran who is participating in such a program.” It would also not “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.”
Unfortunately, while this bill managed to attract support in the Senate, drug policy reform advocates believe more needs to be done to bring a more comprehensive measure, like the CARERS Act, to the table for those who have served our country.
“The politics around marijuana have shifted in recent years, yet Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley hasn’t held a hearing on the bill,” Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in statement. “We will move the CARERS Act piece by piece if we have to but now is the time for the Senate to hold a hearing on the bill as a whole.”
Should veterans have access to medical marijuana? Tell us what you think in the comments.