Revised Veterans Amendment for Medical Marijuana Suspects Foul Play

Shirley Lia

In what seemed to be a positive direction for the medical marijuana industry and activists alike, there may have been suspicious handling of the bill right after it was approved by both the House and the Senate. The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2017 was just released to the public, but with an important section left out in its language. A provision that allowed Veterans Affairs doctors to be able to discuss the benefits of medical marijuana to their patients was omitted from the bill. The amendment was passed last May in a vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee (20–9) and the House of Representatives (233–189). However, the Conference Committee report published last week has no written indication of providing VA physicians that legal access. The change was made behind doors of Congress, likely after its passage but quickly scratched out by dissident party members.

What this means is that veterans are opted out of receiving the proven benefits of medical marijuana without legal consequences. The current law stands that VA physicians are barred from providing the paperwork to veterans that allows them to use cannabis for health purposes. The missing provision would have allowed this option, but only for states that have legalized the use of medical marijuana. But the mishandling of the amendment further proves that even broad appeal from both parties does not guarantee that bi-partisan efforts would effectively take form.

There seems to be some who want the entire U.S. to have no part of the growing popularity towards using medical marijuana. The government is taking slow, precautionary steps in entirely legalizing the industry. Similar measures this year, like the bill to provide banking services to legal marijuana businesses, still need to go through several hurdles until it can finally take effect.

The implications affect the physical and mental health of veterans. Those who suffer from PTSD and other trauma from war may benefit more from medical marijuana than prescription pills. As opposed to countless side effects that painkillers and sedatives may cause, including addiction and depression, marijuana has proven to take the edge off for veterans who display symptoms of PTSD. A surge in the number of veterans who seek medical attention in recent years calls for a serious look at what the drug can do for them.

But the stigma surrounding cannabis has not disappeared despite evidence of its health advantages. What seemed to be a drug deemed to only be for teenage recreational use has a less popular perspective on its health gains. Real life examples of medical marijuana use have backed this up. Yet the government is only slowly turning its head around for consideration. What has to be done for impressive legislative reform is for Congress to listen to research over popular (and wealthy) opinion. Big pharmaceutical companies will lose if less people are using their drugs, and the conservative and mainstream public still sees marijuana in a dark light. Scientific research and ample observations on patients exhibiting positive effects using cannabis should be enough for qualified veterans to have access to it. All congressional party members have to do is listen to what’s already in front of them.