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Congress Refiles Veterans Equal Access Act

The Veterans Equal Access Act was reintroduced in Congress at the beginning of June, which marks another attempt by representatives of the state of Virginia to make cannabis more accessible for the state’s veterans.

The Act, which is “narrowly tailored”, would simply allow doctors in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to make recommendations surrounding cannabis. Although it would not permit physicians to prescribe medical cannabis, only to recommend it, the Act has continued to receive harsh condemnation in Congress.

Modest But Impactful Reform

The Act – which is sponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Brian Mast, co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus – proposes reforms when it comes to regulations and restrictions governing doctors in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Currently, doctors in the Department are unable to suggest cannabis as a form of treatment at all.

The Veterans Equal Access Act would simply allow physicians to make recommendations surrounding medical cannabis and discuss its potential benefits. To be clear, doctors would not be able to prescribe medical marijuana as a solution, but rather open a dialogue surrounding the medication and its uses.

Although Blumenauer acknowledges that some members of Congress may not be ready to join the majority of Americans who support legalization, he notes that the modest veteran’s reform proposition is an opportunity for progressive legislation that could be enacted sooner rather than later.

 

Although Blumenauer acknowledges that some members of Congresscongressveter

 

Frustrating News

For some time now, advocates and veteran service organizations have been pressing for increased study into the therapeutic potential of cannabis, and the VA’s stance on marijuana has been a serious cause of tension and concern.

In March, joint hearings were held by House and Senate committees to connect with veterans service organizations (VSOs) about how Congress and the federal government might better serve their constituents. Several of the organizations were adamant about the need to reform marijuana laws.

Furthermore, another bill proposed by Rep. Seth Moulton would “encourage” service veterans to talk about medical marijuana therapy without worrying about losing their government benefits (D-MA). In the current climate, cannabis is still seen as an intensely taboo subject, and veterans are fearful to admit their interest in the plant as a form of treatment for fear of losing valuable resources that the government currently provides.

Support From Advocacy Groups

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IVAV), AMVETS, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, U.S. Cannabis Council, Drug Policy Alliance, Council for Federal Cannabis Regulation, NORML, Better Organizing to Win Legalization, and the National Cannabis Industry Association are just a few of the major cannabis and veterans advocacy groups that have openly expressed support for the refined veteran’s bill.

Meanwhile, the VA has continually denied proposals, no matter how modest.

To make matters worse, the department has made it abundantly clear in recent statements that it will not support marijuana-based treatments as part of a new grant program designed to limit veteran suicide.

 

To make matters worse, the department has made it abundantly clear in recent statements

 

An Unlikely Bipartisan Bond

In a country that often feels more politically divided than ever before, coming across issues that both democrats and republicans agree on is no easy feat. But according to Blumenauer, “the prospects have never been better.” This is an issue that blends partisan lines.

“We have ill-treated our veterans,” he continued. “There was a time when we passed out opioids to them like Tic Tacs while we denied them the ability to use their VA doctor to be able to deal with medical cannabis, which would have been safer and more effective.”

 


 

Continued reticence when it comes to legislation reform surrounding cannabis is harmful to some of the country’s most vulnerable. Our veterans suffer daily at the hands of governmental

inaction.

The proposed reforms are not monumental but would create valuable and necessary change in a broken system.

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