Senators Introduce First Bill Allowing Veteran Access To Medical Marijuana

The bill has the potential to improve many veterans' quality of life.

Senators Introduce First Bill Allowing Veteran Access To Medical Marijuana
Photo by Flickr user Rex Hammock

The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, introduced Wednesday by two democratic senators, has the potential to literally save the lives of many veterans, or at the very least improve their quality. As it currently stands, V.A. doctors are not allowed to fill out the necessary paperwork to recommend or prescribe medical cannabis to veterans.

This legislation would give V.A. doctors the authority to finally be able to issue marijuana scripts, as allowed from state to state and as allowed for the general population in medicalized states. And there’s nothing general about a veteran. Veterans have often given over everything to fight for our freedoms. It’s truly only fair that they enjoy the same rights to medical cannabis that their neighbors do.

The bill was authored by senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Brian Schatz (D-HI). Though both democrats, cannabis has proven itself time and again to be a non-partisan issue, lending even more hope that this bill will pass.

As well as allowing medical marijuana for vets, the Safe Harbor Act would be allocating $15 million to study, “the effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain” as well as “the relationship between treatment programs involving medical marijuana that are approved by States, the access of veterans to such programs, and a reduction in opioid abuse among veterans.”

Opiates and benzos are some of the most commonly prescribed medications to veterans suffering from chronic pain and/or PTSD. They are also the types of pills that many people use marijuana to either slow the use of or stop entirely.

The bill’s introduction reads that it aims, “To allow veterans to use, possess, or transport medical marijuana and to discuss the use of medical marijuana with a physician of the Department of Veterans Affairs as authorized by State law, and for other purposes.” It also says, “States with medical cannabis laws have a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with States without medical cannabis laws.”

“Chronic pain affects the veteran population, with almost 60 percent of veterans returning from serving in the Armed Forces in the Middle East, and more than 50 percent of older veterans who are using the health care system of the Department of Veterans Affairs living with some form of chronic pain,” it continued.

According to the press release that came out of Sen. Nelson’s office, “Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from opioid overdose.” It couldn’t be more clear that getting natural medicine into the hands and systems of veterans is the best way to combat that sad statistic. There has never been a fatal overdose of cannabis, which has also proven itself to be an exit drug for ofttimes deadly medications like oxycodone or xanax. Veterans deserve access to safe medicine and that is exactly what this bill aims to provide.

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