U.S. senators file legislation to legalize medical cannabis for Military Veterans

Cannabis advocates have praised the legislation to legalize medical cannabis for veterans


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A bill to legalize medical cannabis for veterans has been filed by two Democratic U.S. senators.

The Senate bill, named the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, would entitle physicians who operate within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to issue medical cannabis recommendations in conformity with the laws that have been enacted in weed-friendly U.S. states.

The legislation proposes changes to existing laws that would grant military veterans the legal ability to use medicinal cannabis, as well as aid doctors in providing servicemen with access to pharmaceutical-grade weed treatments.

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) is a proud sponsor of the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, as is Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI).

Based on the details of the bill to legalize cannabis for veterans under federal law, military veterans will be allowed to “use, possess, or transport medical marijuana in accordance with the laws of the State in which the use, possession, or transport occurs.”

Bill to legalize medical cannabis for veterans will allocate $15 million for research

In addition to providing military veterans and ex-servicemen with legal access to medicinal weed, the bill mandates the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to carry out studies on cannabis’ efficacy at treating symptoms experienced by veterans, such as chronic pain and mental illness.

“The effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain” and “the relationship between treatment programs involving medical marijuana that are approved by States, the access of veterans to such programs, and a reduction in opioid abuse among veterans” are the subject areas in which VA must investigate. Research funding to the value of $15 million will be granted for this purpose.

“Marijuana and its compounds show promise for treating a wide range of diseases and disorders, including pain management,” reads a section of the bill. “Medical marijuana in States where it is legal may serve as a less harmful alternative to opioids in treating veterans.”

Under the new legislation, servicemen would be provided with crucial medical and civil protections for a five-year period.

Advocates rejoice at the news of legislation to legalize cannabis for Veterans


After Nelson and Schatz put forward the bill to legalize medical cannabis for veterans, advocates of the plant praised the legislation.

“The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act would provide crucial medical and civil protections for the men and women who put their lives on the line to serve this country,” said NORML’s political director Justin Strekal. ”It is unconscionable that these brave individuals who protect our nation’s freedoms would be treated as criminals when they return home just for treating their medical ailments with a safe and effective option.”

The number of military veterans using medicinal-grade cannabis to relieve the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), physical/mental war injuries, and chronic pain is rapidly rising.

If the results of a survey from the Department of Veterans Affairs are accurate, almost a million veterans could be self-medicating with cannabis. However, lack of research has made it difficult for doctors to prescribe the green stuff.

Senators who sponsored the legislation support cannabis reform

(Pictured) U.S. Senate, Brian Schatz

Schatz has not been shy about his support for cannabis law reform.

In fact, the American politician has publicly spoken out about his advocacy for the plant’s medicinal benefits by signing onto numerous cannabis bills in the past. He has also urged federal officials to consider the issue at various Senate hearings.

Nelson, on the other hand, has not cosponsored cannabis reform legislation during his career, with the recent bill indicating his newfound support to legalize cannabis for veterans.

“Federal law prohibits VA doctors from prescribing or recommending medical marijuana to veterans,” he said in a press release. “This legislation will allow veterans in Florida and elsewhere the same access to legitimately prescribed medication, just as any other patient in those 31 states would have.”

Law to legalize medicinal cannabis for veterans has never been enacted

This isn’t the first time that senators have tried to legalize cannabis for veterans. On more than one occasion, amendments have been approved by the House and Senate to enable VA doctors the power to recommend medicinal weed as a treatment option. Notwithstanding, those amendments have not yet been put into action.

Just a few months back, a standalone cannabis bill was given the thumbs up by a congressional committee to promote VA research into the therapeutic potential of using cannabis to treat veterans. It was the first of its kind to gain approval by a congressional board.

“Historically, veteran and military communities have long been at the forefront of American social change, catalyzing the widespread acceptance of evolving cultural norms and perceptions surrounding racial, gender, and sexual equality,” said Strekal.  “The therapeutic use of cannabis by veterans follows this trend and members of Congress should follow their lead and pass the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act.”