Congressional committee approved two bills focused on marijuana and military veterans on Thursday. The action is the first markup of cannabis-related legislation on Capitol Hill this year.
The bills approved by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee are geared toward expanding access to medical cannabis for the veteran population and increasing research into the plant’s therapeutic benefits for conditions such as chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The Veterans Equal Access Act, sponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), would allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recommend medical marijuana to their patients in states where it’s legal. It was approved in a vote of 15-11.
“Today was a monumental day for our veterans. We have been working for years to reform this counterproductive policy that forces veterans outside of the VA to receive legal medical cannabis treatment for chronic pain and PTSD,” Blumenauer said after the vote. “This is the culmination of the tremendous work of our movement, but we will not be finished until this becomes the law of the land. We must reform our federal cannabis policy.”
The VA Medical Cannabis Research Act, led by Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA), would require VA to conduct clinical trials on the medical potential of cannabis in the treatment of conditions that commonly afflict veterans. It was approved in a voice vote.
“Our nation’s veterans have been calling for alternatives to opioids for decades. Cannabis has the potential to be that alternative,” Correa said. “Many studies from around the world show cannabis’s effectiveness for treating PTSD and chronic pain. It’s time we did the research and got our vets the medications they need. We owe it to every veteran to never stop looking for ways to treat their scars.”