Congressional committee cancels vote on two medical cannabis bills for veterans

Pro-pot organization Veterans of Foreign Wars is supportive of the cannabis bills, but will not be endorsing the legislation until federal law changes on a bigger scale

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Two separate cannabis bills aimed at providing veterans with access to medical cannabis were expected to be voted on by a congressional committee this past Wednesday. However, a report from Marijuana Movement has revealed how the two bills concerning medical cannabis access for military veterans were canceled.

Lawmakers have confirmed that they will be holding a hearing at a later date of both cannabis bills comes one week after the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health took place.

One of the cannabis bills that is yet to be deliberated by the congressional committee would enable doctors who work for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide veteran patients with medical cannabis recommendations.

Furthermore, the bill would implement an administrative policy into law that safeguards veterans from losing their VA benefits for consuming cannabis in compliance with state law. A separate proposal would prompt the VA to carry out clinical trials on cannabis’ therapeutic and medicinal benefits.

The goal would be to determine the efficacy of plant-derived medicines when they are used to treat a wide spectrum of conditions that commonly affect veterans, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain, insomnia, depression, and traumatic brain injury.

Third cannabis bill was discussed at recent subcommittee hearing

Last week’s subcommittee hearing also saw lawmakers discuss a third cannabis bill. However, the bill will not progress further at this point in time. Longtime cannabis advocate Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) sponsored the bill, which had a primary focus to grant VA doctors the legal ability to issue veterans with medical cannabis recommendations. A recommendation is required to obtain a prescription for cannabis-based medicines.

Since the details of the third cannabis bill are very similar to the language contained in one of the canceled bills, it was not included in the voting session that was eventually postponed by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Republican politician introduces an amended version of broader cannabis bill

A more extensive bill was introduced by Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL), titled the “Veterans Cannabis Use for Safe Healing Act.” Committee chairman Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) is expected to create a substitute for the text. The amended version only contains two distinct changes to the original.

The legislation confirms that, when veterans and VA doctors talk about state-level cannabis consumption limits, veterans cannabis usage could not be logged in their personal records “as a substance use disorder.” The other amendment included in the chairman’s substitute urges the VA secretary to “establish new diagnostic codes that are uniquely applicable to cannabis use.”

Opposition was felt from numerous witnesses who publicly testified at the recent subcommittee hearing. They claimed that they did not support the recommendation proposal, due to advice they had been given from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Pro-pot organization Veterans of Foreign Wars is supportive of the cannabis bills, but will not be endorsing the legislation until federal law changes on a bigger scale. For unknown reasons, anti-cannabis legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) rejected an invitation to submit a written testimony to the subcommittee ahead of the hearing.

Support for cannabis reform is steadily growing in Congress

A separate House committee cleared a separate cannabis banking bill in March. This chunk of legislation will reach the House floor within the next several weeks and if passed, it would financially safeguard cannabis businesses from federal disruption.

The two proposals for increasing veterans access to medical cannabis will be pondered over at a later date, of which is yet to be confirmed. Legislation recommendations of this kind demonstrate undeniable progress in Blumenauer’s efforts to put an end to federal cannabis prohibition, once and for all.