Doctor writing on prescription blank and bottle with medical cannabis on table.

Senate Votes to Empower VA Doctors to Recommend Medical Marijuana to Veterans

The U.S. Senate has taken a significant step by approving a bill that includes a groundbreaking provision allowing doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to issue medical marijuana recommendations to veterans residing in states with legal cannabis programs. This development sets the stage for a potential conference with the House of Representatives, which has also advanced a similar provision in its appropriations legislation.

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Senate Approves the Cannabis Amendment

Senators voted to include the cannabis provision in the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilConVA) measure, presented by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), as part of a “minibus” package of three appropriations bills. The vote, with a decisive 82-15 majority, signals a significant step toward providing veterans with improved access to medical marijuana.

The House had already passed its MilConVA bill a few months ago, featuring an amendment introduced by Representative Brian Mast (R-FL) and other members of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. This amendment sought to grant VA doctors the authority to recommend medical cannabis to veterans.

Differing Language, Joint Resolution Required

It’s important to note that the exact language of the Senate and House proposals differs slightly. As a result, the two chambers will need to reconcile these differences in a bicameral conference committee or through negotiations between House and Senate leaders. This reconciliation process is essential before the final bill is sent to the President for potential enactment into law.

This situation resembles a similar occurrence in 2016 when both chambers included varied versions of the VA marijuana amendment in their appropriations bills, only to have the provision entirely removed from the final law.

Support for Veterans’ Access to Medical Marijuana

Senator Jeff Merkley emphasized the importance of removing barriers for veterans in accessing the care they need. He pointed out that outdated laws should not limit veterans’ doctor-patient relationships. Merkley expressed his eagerness to collaborate with colleagues from both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate to make this crucial option a reality for American veterans.

Awaiting Resolution as Funding Deadline Approaches

It’s crucial to note that funding for federal agencies is set to expire on November 17, following a short-term extension approved by lawmakers in September. This underscores the urgency of reaching a resolution on the veterans’ cannabis recommendations.

The veterans’ cannabis amendment would achieve the same policy outcome as a standalone bill, the Veterans Equal Access Act, which has garnered bipartisan support in recent years. While it has passed through committees and received floor approval, the bill has yet to be enacted into law.

Challenges and Progress in VA Cannabis Policies

In August, bipartisan congressional lawmakers expressed concern over the updated VA marijuana directive, which continued to prohibit VA doctors from making medical cannabis recommendations to veterans in states with legal cannabis programs. This decision was particularly concerning given VA’s clinical guidance on PTSD, which discourages the use of medical cannabis as a treatment option.

The VA had previously updated its cannabis guidance in 2017 to encourage VA doctors to discuss veterans’ marijuana use.

Additionally, in April, Senate Republicans blocked a procedural vote to advance a bill aimed at promoting VA research into the therapeutic effects of marijuana for military veterans, particularly those with conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The passage of the veterans’ medical cannabis recommendations amendment in the House marked a notable achievement, as drug policy reform measures have historically faced challenges in the GOP-controlled House Rules Committee.

As the Senate and House work to reconcile their versions of the appropriations bill, the outcome of this historic veterans’ cannabis amendment hangs in the balance. Veterans and advocates remain hopeful that this essential step toward improved access to medical marijuana will become law, offering relief to those who have served our nation.

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  1. They might as well! VA nothing more than a massive money redistribution apparatus and otherwise an expensive emergency room and pill mill. Not a single vet could walk through the door and they’d still pay people to work there for 20 years. It would be cheaper and more effective if they handed out insurance cards instead.

  2. What about those of us who DO NOT WANT to use marijuana?! What about the veterans who have chronic pain who have been forced off of their pain medications by the VA? Oh wait, many of those who have been forced off of the painkillers that allowed them to live productive lives have KILLED THEMSELVES, and the VA is just fine with that!
    If you’re being forced off painkillers because the VA only recognizes organizations that push veterans off of life saving pain meds, get hold of Claudia Merandi from the Doctor Patient Forum, she’s a fighter for your rights!

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  3. Can’t you see the wolves is sheeps clothing here? Let’s face the facts and the truth; the only reason the government would support legalizing marijuana at all is to suppress the population and keep us dumb. They will heavily tax it and make it legal soon for all 50 states. I know for a fact that med marijuana does infact help a small population of people who’s body rejects conventional medicines. We all know (I hope) what’s going on here. If the govt cared about its citizens and veterans why are people living on the streets in numbers never seen before? Why do illegal immigrants get the healthcare our mentally ill citizens can’t get? Why do I see immigrants with shipping carts loaded with food that the govt so generously provides them with? Why doesn’t the lawmakers enforce the law? Why are politicians (all of them) not held to account? Why do they blatantly break the laws that they passed and allow looting and the burning of cities? Why did the “Vice President” defend and find BLM? Why has the federal government taken Texas to court over keeping God knows who out of their state and eventually mine? Why don’t they follow the laws governed in the constitution? Did you know that congress and politicians legally allowed to lie while under oath? Your read that right, look it up. Why was the vaccine pushed so harshly and our God given rights suppressed? Why did biden give the WHO legal authorization to declare emergencies that come with rules that violate our rights? Why is Ukraine old news and the entire world imploding right in front of us? Why do you think the govt wants to take our second amendment away so badly? The list of violations against the American people and the constitution by the federal government are absolutely atrocious and intentional. Why hasn’t congress voted on going to war? Why is OUR money going to everyone in the world except here where it’s desperately needed? Why are we paying the Ukrainians bills and not our own? Why is our government funding Israel and the Palestinian Authority? Why are we still giving billions upon billions to Iran? Maybe legalizing marijuana would keep citizens stoned and lazy while they tax it to death and get richer? Why is social media monitored by the government? Why did fauci have his hand in what was allowed to be said and the truth from being told? Why the hell are people still wearing masks???? Why is it ok for the state to tell your children about lgbtq and confuse them? Why is it ok to give children hormone blockers and transgender surgery? Why are parents and Christian’s domestic terrorists? Why is propaganda so evident? Why is Hollywood full of pedofiles? Why is witchcraft and satanism mainstream and accepted in music and movies? Why are you required to use specific pronouns to address and appease certain individuals who think they aren’t the gender they were born? Why do businesses have to comply with the ridiculousness of ESG? Why was the common core curriculum ever allowed? Why are you paying into social security when your not going to receive it when eligible? Why is our petroleum reserve at an all time low and sold to China on the cheap? Why are you paying taxes and having to pay for inflation for decisions we didn’t make? Why will I own nothing and love it? What happened to the backbone of America? It’s obvious we are being destroyed from the inside out but as long as stimulus money and loan forgiveness and freebees are being handed out and you stay dependent on the government the way they want you to we let them get away with this. Imagine what we don’t know! Wake up people the last thing on the list of what America needs is legalizing marijuana. Open your eyes and seek out the truth because we are just about out of time!

  4. Here is what the VA has become and still refuses to acknowledge anything, In the previous theaters of combat since Vietnam, the soldiers were discharged or received disciplinary action for using opioids or marijuana, back then they were called potheads if I recall correctly. Today some idiot from the government said we had a opioid crisis in America so doctors and the VA REFUSE to even consider prescriptions for any form of opioid drug, but the now have see the educated light at the end of some tunnel that permits the VA to use drugs similar to LSD and now marijuana to treat patients when their use was illegal under any circumstances, ergo the so called WAR on Drugs that never did anything to solve anything, just sounded good to some idiots while costing taxpayers $$$$$$$$$$. I think this is another justification to end AND REPLACE ALL VA Personnel and the Agency itself and just let the veteran get his medical treatment from the community based on their level of disability.

  5. OIF 3,4 Army veteran and I use medical marijuana in place of all the ptsd meds n psych meds the va prescribed. Best I’ve felt w my ptsd since decommission. Glad we are getting w the times.

  6. Where will VAMH get their lab rats if veterans are able to obtain successful treatment for PTSD and Chronic Pain without drugs that induce Violence and Suicides?

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