A bill that would have allowed veterans access to much needed medical marijuana has been completely stripped from the spending bill that would govern the VA during 2017. Originally, things were looking up for the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, which was added onto the House Conference Report of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2017.
Just recently, the amendment had passed both the Senate Appropriations Committee (vote of 20-9) and the House floor (vote of 233-189) – meaning it was expected to be in the final version that will be sent to President Obama for approval. Only now, there have been changes done behind the backs of those who voted for it which have caused the removal of this amendment altogether – continuing to deny veterans access to a safe and effective alternative medicine.
“Blocking this amendment at the conference committee stage is an assault on democracy and those Americans who risked their lives and health to defend it,” said Michael Liszewski, Government Affairs Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA). “It’s shocking that House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers would allow a veterans health care provision that won by wide margins in a Senate committee and on the House floor to be stripped from the bill behind closed doors.”
If the amendment were to be a part of this spending bill, physicians who work in VA offices and hospitals would no longer fear repercussions if they were to recommend a patient seek medical marijuana through a legally sanctioned state program. Unfortunately, if it does not make it into the final bill, then there is a good chance veterans will continue to be denied access in 2017, regardless of the approval of both the U.S. House and Senate.
Assuming Congress does pass this version without the Veterans Equal Access Amendment (which Americans for Safe Access are strongly asking them not to) then it would wind up on the President’s desk to be signed and approved. If it goes that far, Americans for Safe Access are hoping to convince Obama to veto the bill if it comes to him without this amendment intact. Hopefully, the amendment will find its way back into the bill before then – if not, it’s a toss-up whether or not veterans will have access to medical marijuana or not.