An amendment that would allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans was not allowed to proceed to a full vote in the House.
The House Rules Committee last week blocked a medical marijuana amendment that would have been part of the 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. The Veterans Equal Access amendment would have allowed veterans to participate in legal medical marijuana programs. The committee decided not to allow it to proceed to a vote in the House.
The Veterans Equal Access measure has been debated and voted on the past three years in the House. In 2016, it passed the House with a vote of 233-189. The amendment had bipartisan support, but the decision by the House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) to block it prevents it from being considered further.
“All we want is equal treatment for our wounded warriors,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), sponsor of the bill. “This provision overwhelmingly passed on the House floor last year – and bipartisan support has only grown. It’s outrageous that the Rules Committee won’t even allow a vote for our veterans. They deserve better. They deserve compassion.”
“Given that veterans are more likely to commit suicide or die from opiate overdoses than civilians, our fight to provide them safer alternatives won’t stop here. We have stronger support in the House and Senate than ever before, and we will keep advocating for a more rational approach,” he added.
The amendment would have prohibited federal funds from interfering with a veteran’s ability to participate in medical marijuana programs within states that have passed and implemented its own medicinal cannabis laws. It would also have allowed Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors in those states to recommend medical marijuana to veterans.
One House Rules Committee member, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Washington), spoke out in support of the amendment.
“I’ve seen firsthand the benefit people can derive from medical marijuana,” said Newhouse. “It seems to me that if it’s available and it works, we should make that available to our veterans as well.”
Advocates of medical cannabis for vets argue that cannabis can be an effective treatment option for those diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and pain. The VA Secretary even acknowledged earlier this year that evidence suggests that cannabis could benefit veterans, but added that federal law needs to change first.
The amendment had the support of major veterans organizations, including the American Legion, which has called for lifting marijuana restrictions for vets in the past. Earlier this year, the American Legion also attempted to meet with White House officials to discuss rescheduling marijuana.
The Veterans Equal Access amendment was co-sponsored by Representatives Justin Amash (R-Michigan), Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee), Luis Correa (D-California), Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida), Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), Tom Garrett (R-Virginia), Duncan Hunter (R-California), Barbara Lee (D-California), Tom McClintock (R-California), Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado), Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin), Jared Polis (D-Colorado), Tom Reed (R-New York), Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), Dina Titus (D-Nevada), and Don Young (R-Alaska).
A similar measure could still pass, according to The Hill. Just weeks ago, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 24-7 to include a nearly identical provision in its appropriations bill for the VA. There’s a chance could end up in the billl’s final version.
Blumenauer, the amendment’s lead sponsor, is also the founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, a collection of lawmakers that have led the effort to reschedule cannabis and make it available to veterans.