On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would allow veterans access to medical marijuana in states that have existing programs. In a 233-189 vote in favor of the V.A. appropriations amendment, it further signals a sea change for Congressional support when it comes to medical marijuana.
One Republican opponent, Representative Charlie Dent (R-PA) was against the bill because he admitted he was “uncomfortable in trying to dictate policy on marijuana” without guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If this bill becomes law, veterans in his state of Pennsylvania would be allowed cannabis medicine through their new medical marijuana program.
Nevada is also one of the 23 states (plus the District of Columbia) with medical marijuana, they already have their dispensaries up and running. After the amendment passed, Representative Dina Titus (D-NV) reminded her fellow House members on the House floor how denying veterans access to medicine, is forcing them to be over-prescribed addictive painkillers.
“This comes on the heels of action last week addressing the opioid epidemic that’s plaguing our nation and it’s especially heartbreaking in our veteran community when they are being over-prescribed for pain treatment and PTSD,” said Rep. Titus from the House floor.
The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), representing cannabis-related businesses at the national level, just wrapped up their Congressional Lobby Days last week, where members lobbied for fair and equal access to banking and a lift of the outdated 280E tax rule. NCIA Executive Director, Aaron Smith says this right for veterans is long overdue. “Medical marijuana has huge potential benefits for many of the issues that military veterans deal with, and it’s unconscionable to muzzle their doctors from talking about it,” Smith continued, “we hope this vote for common sense and compassion is the first step this year toward a smarter, saner approach to cannabis policy from Congress.”
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Currently, veterans are forced to find doctors outside of the Veterans Affairs health system to recommend medical marijuana, at their own expense.