Congress Eliminates Medical Marijuana Provision For Veterans

Doctors are no longer allowed to recommend medical marijuana to veteran patients.

Congress Eliminates Medical Marijuana Provision For Veterans
Photo by Flickr user ttarasiuk

Regardless of how progressive some federal lawmakers believe Congress has become with respect to nationwide marijuana reform, there seems to be less evidence of this everyday. The latest bungle comes at the hands of a congressional conference committee and shows nothing but ill intent toward U.S. military veterans.

Earlier this week, a panel connected to the U.S House of Representatives eliminated a temporary provision tucked inside a budget proposal for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs designed to give its doctors the right to recommend medical marijuana to their patients.

The concept of allowing veterans access to medical marijuana in states where it is legal has been a hot topic of discussion as of late. It is one that has been tried and failed through the legislative grind year after year, even after the issue gains some initial traction.

But 2018 looked like it could be the session to get it done. After all, more Republicans, many of which opposed cannabis in the past, are now starting to embrace the idea of legal weed. Unfortunately, none of them seem to be the ones with any power or influence.

Over the summer, the Senate approved the bill almost unanimously. It only need concurrence from the House to be included in the VA funding for Fiscal Year 2019 – making it the first time ever VA doctors were legally able to discuss cannabis treatments as part of their patients’ overall health care plans. But House Republicans were not having it. The committee did not even allow the issue to be put up to a vote. It simply scratched the provision from the proposal before moving it forward.

Some of the same lawmakers who have tried to convince the public that opinions toward marijuana are rapidly changing on Capitol Hill seemed surprised by the House committee’s decision to turn their backs on the men and women who have served the nation at times of war.

“Denying veterans the care they need by the doctors they trust is shameful,” Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon said in a statement.

“The Senate passed this amendment. It has broad bipartisan support in the House. This should have been a no brainer,” he added. “Yet, Republican leadership has once again stymied progress toward fair and equal treatment for our veterans. Their continued neglect of commonsense and the will of the American people is a disgrace.”

Two years ago, similar language was well received by both chambers, but an independent panel ultimately removed the provision from the bill. The consensus seems to be that as long as marijuana is illegal at the federal level, Uncle Sam (or at least his Republican controls) is not about to allow American soldiers to use cannabis, even if it is for medicinal purposes.

But more permanent legislation is needed anyway. There was a bill introduced last week aimed at giving veterans access to medical marijuana, but will likely to be met with the same level of resistance. Congressional leadership still adamantly opposes all things marijuana.

Of course, the blatant disregard for vets and their freedom have serious conversations with their doctors about cannabis medicine has advocacy groups up in arms.

“This decision of Republican leaders flies in the face of science, compassion, and overwhelming public support,” reads a statement from the Veterans Cannabis Coalition. “The Republican conference has steadfastly voted to send millions of other people’s sons and daughters to fight in endless wars while fighting tooth-and-nail to prevent the study of something that provides relief and healing to those injured in military service. Leadership can’t claim to care about veterans health and well-being while refusing to even discuss cannabis. Enough hypocrisy. We call on House Republicans to listen to the literally tens of thousands of veterans who have benefited from cannabis access, negotiate in good faith, and allow votes to take place.”

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