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VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Bill Approved By Senate

The political front was a buzz of anticipation this week, with anticipation now turning to celebrations as the U.S. Senate committee and panel voted for, and approved, the Bipartisan Marijuana Research Bill. This bill, focused on research for military veterans suffering from pain and PTSD, is the first stand-alone marijuana reform bill to be passed by the Senate committee in the chamber. 

A Win For Military Veterans 

The win for military veterans came after the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee failed to have a quorum present to act on the bill, with members instead approving the legislation more informally.

Now, the revised bill gives the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) latitude in determining for itself whether it’s capable of overseeing clinical trials into marijuana for appropriate conditions. At last, veterans deserving of alternative options and treatments for afflictions caused by war experiences can now receive the treatment they’ve longed for. Now, a better understanding of how medicinal cannabis plays a role in their healing can be conducted. Veterans can find much-needed relief by using medicinal cannabis and feel more empowered in their health decisions. 

Lastly, retroactive observation studies that delve into veterans’ experiences with marijuana outside of the clinical trial context can be performed. Cannabis research for military veterans will be further encouraged. Studies will also be mandated by the VA and will explore the therapeutic potential of cannabis.

Full celebrations are not yet held because of possible compromises in the mix. VA must submit a report to Congress within 90 days on whether it can carry out more robust clinical trials. Upon this, the Secretary may terminate trials. If this is the case, the VA would be asked to finish the qualitative observational study and independently decide against carrying out the clinical trial portion involving human subjects. 

Other revisions in the new version will see the removal of language that requires studies to involve at least seven cannabis varieties.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

The Long And Very Winding Path To This Point

The path to this point has been very long and winding. Key revisions have continued to surface in response to emerging concerns, push-backs, protests, and VA’s bureaucratic hurdles. Meeting agendas have changed along with Veterans Affairs Committee business meeting postponements. VA has also repeatedly brought about past versions of the reform proposal.

According to news sources, “Earlier versions of the measure moved through committee in 2020 and 2018 as well, but none were enacted into law. The earlier versions specifically called for clinical trials into the therapeutic potential of cannabis for post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.” 

The path also saw legislation revised to include a necessary observation study to look into the veteran’s experiences with medical cannabis outside of clinical trials. It’s also seen a Veteran’s Service Coaltion’s letter to congressional leaders failing and, with that, the failure to 

urge the passage of a marijuana and veterans research bill. 

Then there was the enactment of the large-scale defense spending bill, which excluded separate language from a previously House-passed version that would have authorized VA doctors to recommend medical cannabis to veterans. 

Then the path has seen the filing of legalization meant to protect military veterans from losing government benefits. Congressmen on the other side separately refiled legislation to move marijuana from Schedule I to the less restrictive Schedule III. President Joe Biden also signed a research bill into law late last year, and Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) and two other GOP cosponsors filed cannabis legislation for the 118th Congress to allow medical cannabis patients to purchase and possess firearms.

All in all, the path has seen many policy movements, many shifts in political dynamics, expungement measures, and many challenges under a new political reality.

What Else Is In The Works?

Good to note that while votes are set to happen on the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act, the Senate house has a companion bill in the works as well. This House companion version is said to be introduced very soon.

VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act

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