Republican lawmakers, who crow endlessly about their love and respect for the troops, have blocked a vote on a bill that would have allowed Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana as a pain treatment in states where it’s legal.
The House Rules Committee stopped a proposed “Veterans Equal Access” amendment from moving to debate on the House floor by keeping the measure out of the House’s proposed VA funding bill for next year.
This, after the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a veterans’ medical cannabis provision earlier this month by a vote of 24 to seven.
The sponsor of the House provision, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Democrat from Oregon, said he was “bitterly disappointed” that his amendment was sidelined.
“This is a subject that has gained a great deal more attention and momentum,” Blumenauer told McClatchy News. “More people recognize that the VA has really failed our veterans when it has come to pain management, opioids and opioid dependency.”
He noted that the amendment had bipartisan support of nine Democrats and nine Republicans.
“But somehow the [13 member] House Rules Committee decided it wasn’t going to allow this amendment,” he said.
Blumenauer, founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, has led the effort to eliminate the VA policy prohibiting doctors nationwide from discussing marijuana with their patients.
“We would be far better off if our veterans had access to medical marijuana and less reliance on opioids, which is literally killing them,” reported Stars and Stripes. “Under this amendment, marijuana would not be dispensed by the VA or consumed on federal property—it simply ends the current gag rule that says doctors can’t talk to their patients about it, even if they think it’s appropriate.”
The rejection comes at the same time when more veterans than ever are rallying behind medical marijuana as a potential treatment for service-connected health problems and as an alternative to opioids.
Twenty-two American vets commit suicide each day—most suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In an effort to provide alternatives for veterans suffering from PTSD, the American Legion decided last August that it would advocate to remove marijuana from the list of Schedule I drugs.
The organization said that while it was “not asking for it to be legalized,” there had been “overwhelming evidence that it has been beneficial for some vets.”
In May, VA Secretary David Shulkin said at the White House that he was open to learning from any evidence that marijuana could be used as treatment, per Stars and Stripes.
Reclassifying marijuana would remove barriers to scientific research and the large body of already existing evidence of its medical effectiveness would become readily available for those who care to assess and build on it.