Many veterans consider marijuana as a safer alternative to opioids in treating many of their service-related health issues.
Many veterans consider marijuana as a safer alternative to opioids in treating many of their service-related health issues. However, the VA rule holds that no veteran shall use the drug even under state-sponsored programs. This leaves veterans no other choice but to either obtain the drug unlawfully or stay under traditional opiate medications which may be doing them more harm than good.
Fortunately, some legislators such as cannabis advocate and state Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore saw through the problem and pushed for veteran access to the drug.
He sponsored an amendment to the Veterans Equal Access bill. The amendment aims to allow Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors to recommend and discuss medical cannabis as treatment to their veteran patients in states where marijuana is legal.
The bill has fared well within legislative floors for years, gaining widespread bipartisan support. This makes the July 25 ruling a surprise for many of the bill’s followers.
The House Rules committee blocked the bill from moving to debate on the House floor by cutting it out of the 2018 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill. This means it would be more difficult for the provision to be approved within the year. An approval, however, is not entirely impossible.
When the Senate and the House meet later in the year, a compromise can still be reached to re-negotiate the fate of the amendment and hopefully make it to the bill.
A gag rule
Even within the 29 states where medical marijuana is already legal, veterans still find it hard to obtain the drug for treatment purposes since most of them get health care under VA doctors.
Rep. Blumenauer expressed his dismay over the decision:
“All we want is equal treatment for our wounded warriors…It’s outrageous that the Rules Committee won’t even allow a vote for our veterans. They deserve better.”
This view is supported by Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont who said that the existing VA rule is an encroachment to the patients’ rights to talk with their doctors.
Despite the bad news, advocates and patients remain hopeful that the amendment will receive a more favorable ruling at the conclusion of the two chamber’s reconsideration.