The Huffington Post reports the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, authored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, made it through both houses of Congress earlier in the year, included as part of a spending package funding the Veterans Affairs department. It would have allowed veterans in states where medical marijuana is legal to seek it as a treatment through the VA system.
However, in June it was stripped out by the conference committee, and the amendment’s authors and other supporters pushed to have it added back in. That never happened, and last week the Veterans Affairs package passed — without the medical marijuana provision — as part of the continuing resolution to keep the government funded.
Currently, medical marijuana is off-limits to veterans within the system because of a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs standard preventing VA doctors from recommending medical cannabis as treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, pain and other veterans’ issues. If veterans are to use medical marijuana, they have to get a recommendation from a doctor outside of the VA system; they must also pay out of pocket.
Medical marijuana is currently legal in 25 states and the District of Columbia, with additional states voting on its legality come Election Day. Despite its growing acceptance, and the August announcement by the Drug Enforcement Administration that it would allow increased research on medical uses for it, the drug is still classed on the DEA’s Schedule 1 “most dangerous” list.
The report said that the VA doesn’t permit medical marijuana as a treatment for PTSD or other conditions because of a dearth of studies on the effectiveness of medical pot in easing PTSD. But that hasn’t stopped a number of veterans from seeking it out rather than using prescription antidepressants or painkillers. In addition, some states specifically list PTSD as a condition for which doctors can recommend cannabis.
Despite the failure of the measure to pass, its supporters plan to continue to press for the acceptance of medical marijuana as a treatment for veterans.
In a statement, Blumenauer said, “It’s incredibly frustrating and disappointing that despite broad bipartisan, bicameral support, a handful of out-of-touch lawmakers put politics over the well-being of America’s wounded warriors. Our veterans deserve better.” He added, “We will continue to seek every opportunity to make sure they have fair and equal treatment and the ability to consult with, and seek a recommendation from, their personal VA physician about medical marijuana.”