The House of Representatives on Thursday took a major step for marijuana reform. In a vote of 233 to 189, the House approved an amendment to the FY2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill allowing doctors at the Veterans Administration to recommend medical marijuana to their parents if they live in states where medical marijuana is currently legal. The Senate already approved similar language in the past, so it is expected this language will remain in the final appropriations bill when it is eventually adopted into law. This means that barring some unforeseen problem, veterans will soon have an easier time accessing medical marijuana.
“We are pleased that both the House and Senate have made it clear that the Veterans Administration should not punish doctors for recommending medical cannabis to their veteran patients,” said Michael Liszewski, Americans for Safer Access Government Affairs Director. “We anticipate this amendment will reach the President, and once signed, it will give VA physicians another tool in their toolbox to treat the healthcare needs of America’s veterans.”
Currently, veterans using the VA system for their health care needs have to go to outside physicians to get the necessary recommendation to take part in state medical marijuana programs. Depending on the state this can be a needlessly costly, difficult, and/or time consuming endeavor for veterans with serious medical conditions.
These needless hurdles for veterans are simply cruel — research shows that medical marijuana can potentially help reduce the use of opioid pain medications, and there is a serious chronic pain and opioid abuse problem among veterans at the moment. In addition, a study is about to be conducted that will look into whether medical marijuana can be an effective treatment for PTSD since some data suggests it might be.
This vote is a big step for veterans that should help numerous individuals all over the country. But that’s not the only reason it’s significant: this is one of the most direct measures yet acknowledging marijuana’s medical value approved by the House. It also shows that the politics surrounding marijuana in this country are changing rapidly. Two years ago, a similar amendment was defeated easily in the House. Last year the House only narrowly rejected the amendment by three votes, and just 13 months later it easily won approval with a strong bipartisan vote in the House.