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Veterans Can Soon Get Access to Medical Marijuana Without Threat of Losing Benefits

Senate committee votes in favor of having better access to cannabis in legal states.

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This story originally appeared on Cannabis.net

The legalization and decriminalization of cannabis has opened up access to medical marijuana for different types of people. Professionals in different fields now use the natural herb for relaxation while others tap easily into the medicinal goodness of the herb. However, for these groups of people to be beneficiaries of the benefits of the herb, different policies and regulations had to be put in place. This is even more important seeing as cannabis is not legal federally.  

The central focus of this article has to do with the new vote by a Senate committee in favor of medical cannabis for military veterans in the United States.

The committee in its meeting on Wednesday, 3rd of August 11, 2021, approved an amendment that will allow military veterans to have better access to cannabis recommendations in legal states. The amendment by the committee will open up doctors at the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs to easily recommend cannabis as a solution to different medical ailments.

Sen. Jeff Merkley sponsored the amendment which was passed in the Appropriations Committee on a voice note. The amendment will also restrict the Department from standing in the way of veterans having access to state-legal medical cannabis programs. He stated the fact that since more states in the United States have opened their borders to medical marijuana, veterans need to know and understand the stand of their doctors on the issue. 

RELATED: Cannabis Can Help Veterans So Why Don't More Have Access to It?

The core of the amendment

Looking a bit more closely into the amendment, it is easy to see some of the different ways the amendment seeks to achieve its goal. The amendment starts with what the funds appropriated for the Department for the fiscal year of 2022 can be used for and what it cannot be used for. First off, the funds cannot be used by the department to directly or indirectly interfere with the ability of a veteran to enjoy the benefit of medical marijuana. This will stand provided that such a veteran is seeking to participate in the program in a state where it is legal.

Secondly, the department under this amendment will be unable to deny services to any veteran that is a participant in such a program. This particular clause in the amendment is very important because this is one of the powers the department is known to use in keeping veterans away from using marijuana programs. The third and final clause of the amendment states that the department can in no way restrict or interfere when a health care provider of the Department makes recommendations or takes steps that are in line with the program.       

History of similar proposals

It might interest you to know that this is not the first time that such a bill is making its way to the Appropriations Committee of the Senate. In 2018, a similar proposal made its way to the Appropriations Committee from the same senator. The house has also had different legislations approved over the years for VA doctors but none ever materialized into law. The reason for this is not so far-fetched though. Some of the senators are of the opinion that the illegal nature of cannabis with the federal government can bring up a problem. This is because the Department of Justice can hold them liable seeing as the natural herb is prohibited under federal laws.

A similar move that has been taken at the level of the house to help the veterans and their access to medical marijuana was taken by Reps. Conor Lamb and Peter Meijer. Both of them filed a bill in May titled the “Fully Informed Veteran Act”. This act started with the basics of ensuring that veterans were allowed access to information and resources on state-legal cannabis programs. A bill had also been projected by another pair of Republican lawmakers on the same issue. This bill tilted more towards promoting research into potential applications of medical marijuana for veterans.

It would seem like the bills came at the right time to force the push for access to medical marijuana by veterans. A day before the filing of the bill to promote research, a bipartisan Senate bill had been introduced on the floor of the Committee to see VA conduct clinical trials into the possible use of marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain. A prior version of this bill had also been approved by the Veterans’ Affairs Committee of the House. This included opening up VA doctors to issue recommendations of medical marijuana programs to patients in states where it is legal.

Other bills have also been passed at the level of the house to promote the use of medical marijuana in the force. A bipartisan coalition among lawmakers of the congress has introduced legislation in April which will legalize marijuana use medically for military veterans. Also towing these lines are bills that are encouraging more research aimed at identifying possible therapeutic uses of psychedelics among military veterans for mental health conditions.

Some veterans have made complaints about access to securing home loan benefits when they work in the state-legal marijuana industry. Rep Katherine Clark has decided to take this on bypassing a sign-on letter to tackle the problem. This amendment by Clark didn’t take long to be approved by the House as a testament to the waves the issue is making on the floor of the House.

RELATED: Former Marines Embark On A Marijuana Mission For Veterans

Bottom line

The VA has a great deal to do when it comes to opening up itself to the benefits of medical marijuana. This is very evident on aspect of the limited progress the agency has made when it comes to the aspect of research. However, this bill passed by the committee is only one of many that are bound to spur them to more action. The more the veterans have access to medical marijuana the better for them and the more the VA is willing to delve into clinical research, the better for the veterans.