Some unknown Congressional anti-pot crusaders have managed once again to make it difficult for the country’s vets even to talk about medical marijuana with their doctors.
There was hope this year that Congress would effectively remove a ban that prevents Veteran Administration docs from talking to their patients—no matter what their ailments— about medical marijuana. But some backroom maneuvering removed reform from a bill Congress eventually passed.
On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives and the Senate approved a spending package intended to keep the federal government operational until the beginning of December. However, this move did not include the highly sought-after Veterans Equal Access Amendment. The budget was signed on Thursday by President Obama.
But there is some confusion as to why the Equal Access Amendment wasn’t there. After all, it was approved in the House earlier this year in a vote of 233 to 189, and a Senate committee picked it up with a vote of 20 to 10. Both houses are controlled by Republicans. By all accounts the amendment should have gone the distance, but a conference committee ultimately prevented the measure from seeing the light of day.
“It’s incredibly frustrating and disappointing that despite broad bipartisan, bicameral support, a handful of out-of-touch lawmakers put politics over the well-being of America’s wounded warriors. Our veterans deserve better,” Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer said in a statement. “We will continue to seek every opportunity to make sure they have fair and equal treatment and the ability to consult with, and seek a recommendation from, their personal VA physician about medical marijuana.”
As it stands, medical marijuana is legal in over half the nation, with several more states promising to legalize in the November election. Still, the federal government refuses to allow veterans living in medical marijuana states to participate in those programs, which has prompted many of these men and women to lean on dangerous prescription drugs and alcohol as a means to contend with debilitating conditions ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to chronic pain.
Some of the latest research shows that the use of opioids is down in states that have legalized the leaf for medicinal purposes, suggesting that Congress could save the lives of thousands of veterans by simply supporting a reasonable proposal that allows some access.
The American Legion, the largest veterans service organization in the nation, recently published a resolution calling for the United States government to remove the cannabis plant from the confines of the Controlled Substances Act so researchers could finally begin to study the herb’s true therapeutic benefit. The organization wants to find out if science agrees with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that cannabis has “no medicinal benefit.”
Unfortunately, the latest dismissal of the Veterans Equal Access Amendment likely means the proposal will not be considered in the federal government’s Fiscal Year 2017 spending bill—leaving veterans prone to overdose deaths from prescription painkillers for at least another year.
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