Lawmakers Introduce Medical Cannabis Bill For Veterans

Democratic lawmakers have introduced joint legislation into Congress to allow military veterans to possess, transport, and use medicinal cannabis in legal states and discuss it with their physicians at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

On Wednesday, Senator Brian Schatz [D-HI] introduced S445 and Representative Barbara Lee [D-CA] introduced HR1151. Senator Tim Kane [D-VA] is listed as a co-sponsor on S445

According to a study released by the University of Michigan in August of 2018, the rates of past year cannabis use by veterans in 2014 were comparable to, or lower than those of non-veterans at around 9 percent. But of those with past year use, the proportion using medicinal marijuana was more than twice that of the general population at a rate of approximately 41 percent.

NORML says that medical cannabis use would likely be more widespread among veterans if VA physicians were not federally-barred from recommending it.

“In 33 states, doctors and their patients have the option to use medical marijuana to manage pain—unless those doctors work for the VA and their patients are veterans,” said Schatz in a statement. “This bill gives VA doctors in these states the option to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans, and it also promises to shed light on how medical marijuana can help with the nation’s opioid epidemic.”

A study published in March of 2018 showed that the enactment of medical cannabis laws correlates with a reduction in the daily doses filled for opioid analgesics among Medicare and Medicaid enrollees and a drop in opioid-overdose deaths nationwide.

In January, lawmakers introduced joint legislation that would direct the VA to begin conducting medical cannabis research.