Congress Blocks Medical Marijuana for Veterans

Although there was a great deal of support for a Congressional amendment aimed at allowing veterans to gain hassle-free access to medical marijuana, it does not appear the powers that be are ready to get serious about giving the men and women who have fought to protect our country the freedom to discuss marijuana with physicians employed with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

It seems Congressional leadership has taken it upon themselves to secretly snuff out the Veterans Equal Access Amendment while no one was looking. A report published by reveals that the final language of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2017 was released, last week, without any mention of allowing V.A. doctors to recommend medical marijuana.

In late May, both the U.S. House of Representatives (233-to-189) and the Senate (20-to-9), for the first time in history, put their stamp of approval on the amendment, giving pot proponents and patients, alike, an optimistic outlook that the next federal budget would open up the door to getting Vets actively participating in state medical marijuana programs. Not only were these actions considered a big deal in the grand scheme of cannabis acceptance, the inclusion of the amendment in the 2017 federal budget was practically deemed a “sure thing” by policy experts considering the outpouring of support from both chambers.

However, a grand level of mysterious sabotage must have went down between the time the amendments were approved and the point when the Conference Committee report was released, earlier last week, because it is now as though there was never any support at all for allowing V.A. physicians to recommend medical marijuana without suffering the consequences. It appears the negotiators appointed by the House and Senate to formulate a solitary bill simply scribbled out that portion of the bill before moving forward.

This underhanded act of disruption has marijuana advocates on the edge of a conniption.

“Blocking this amendment at the conference committee stage is an assault on democracy and those Americans who risked their lives and health to defend it,” Michael Liszewski, Government Affairs Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) said in a statement. “It’s shocking that House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers would allow a veterans health care provision that won by wide margins in a Senate committee and on the House floor to be stripped from the bill behind closed doors.”

Unfortunately, veterans will be forced to go at least another year without having access to legal marijuana before the stiffs on Capitol Hill have another opportunity to duke it out on this issue. Even though Congress must still approve the final spending package, which will be sent to President Obama at the end of the year for his signature, there doesn’t appear to be any hope of resurrecting the Veterans Equal Access Amendment in 2016. Federal lawmakers will need to reintroduce the measure at the beginning of next year and not only hope to, once again, win over the approval of the House and Senate, but also that another sabotage committee is not standing in the shadows waiting to cut their throats.

photo: Getty Images

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