Bipartisan legislation was recently reintroduced to remove barriers preventing veterans accessing medical cannabis as recommended by health care providers at the VA.
In late March 2023, Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Brian Mast (R-FL) introduced the Veterans Equal Access Act, which, if passed, authorizes health care providers at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recommend state-legal medical cannabis to veterans (1). Currently, physicians at the VA can be prohibited from discussing medical cannabis and veterans are not allowed to complete forms to participate in medical cannabis programs in any US state regardless of cannabis laws (1).
“I cannot tell you how many times I’ve visited VA clinics and had veterans tell me that medical marijuana saved their life,” said Blumenauer in a press release (1). “This legislation is a long overdue step that will benefit millions of our veterans who deserve equal access as their civilian counterparts to state-legal marijuana programs.”
“As I was recovering in Walter Reed, I was put on a laundry list of prescription medications from antidepressants to opiates,” added Mast, who lost both legs while serving in the Army in Afghanistan (1,2). “Thankfully, I was able to quit cold turkey, but there’s thousands who aren’t able. Our veteran population is facing multiple epidemics, including addiction and suicide, and we owe it to them to make sure they’ve got every tool possible in the arsenal to deal with the impacts of battle – that includes medical cannabis.”
The bill has received support from advocate groups including AMVETS, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Cannabis Roundtable, and Veterans Cannabis Project (2).
“We’re pleased to see Representatives Mast and Blumenauer introduce the Veterans Equal Access Act again in Congress and are encouraged by their continued dedication on behalf of our veterans,” said Veterans Cannabis Project Executive Director Stephen Jones (3). “Most veterans live in states where medical marijuana is now legal, but their doctors at the VA are hamstrung by outdated federal policy when it comes to even simple things like making program recommendations or filling out forms. This bipartisan bill is a step in the right direction toward closing that care gap. The healing, recovery, and reintegration process is already hard enough for our service members, and we owe it to them to cut through the red tape when it comes to getting the help they need.”
On March 30, 2023, Representatives Blumenauer and Mast held a press conference with reporters to speak in depth about the bill. The bill now awaits consideration by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs (1).
Interested in deeper dive into the progress made for veterans and medical cannabis by Blumenauer and Mast? Read more coverage from Cannabis Patient Care: https://www.cannapatientcare.com/view/bipartisan-support-steps-in-to-help-veterans-access-to-medical-cannabis