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Veterans Could Get Medical Marijuana Under New Bill

Congressional lawmakers are on the verge of the type of medical marijuana breakthrough eluding them since the beginning

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Bipartisan Congressional lawmakers are nearing the type of medical marijuana breakthrough eluding them since the beginning of the program. Lawmakers this week refiled a bill to provide military veterans with access to medical marijuana.

Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) are co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. And they are, fortuitously, the chief sponsors of the Veterans Equal Access Act, reports Marijuana Moment.

The bill would allow government doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recommend medical marijuana to their patients in states where it’s legal. The VA would not provide marijuana, however. Rather, personnel would use those authorizations to access medicinal Cannabis through existing state-legal dispensaries.

Mast is a military veteran himself who lost his legs during service in Afghanistan. He said on Thursday that “there’s absolutely progress going on, and I do have high hopes of policy and legislation moving” under the GOP-controlled House.

“Low-Hanging Fruit”

Congressman Blumenauer remarked at the press conference that passing the Act “isn’t just low-hanging fruit—it’s picking it up off the ground.”

The veterans reform proposal also mirrors committee-approved versions from past years. It has also previously been pursued through the appropriations process as an amendment.

Lawmakers have ultimately decided to focus on standalone legislation following pushback from VA. The Veterans Administration has consistently opposed modest marijuana reform proposals that relate to the department.

Modest But Meaningful Reform

The Veterans Equal Access Act is a concise bill that supporters say would provide a modest but meaningful reform for the veteran community.

VA doctors are currently allowed to discuss medical cannabis with patients, but they’re not specifically authorized to issue recommendations, even in states that have legalized the plant for medical or recreational use.

The Congressional Budget Office conducted a fiscal analysis of an earlier version of the bill in 2020, finding that it would not cost the government anything to implement.

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