A duo of bipartisan congressmen is seeking support for an upcoming bill that would increase military veterans’ access to medical cannabis. Although studies have found that medical cannabis can be effective at helping veterans deal with chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), federal policy makes it extremely difficult for veterans to access legal cannabis.
Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Republican Rep. Brian Mast are hoping to change this through their Veterans Equal Access Act. The bill would grant healthcare practitioners at the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) permission to recommend medical cannabis to patients in states with legal cannabis markets.
The two congressmen, cochairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, also shared a letter to other House offices asking those officials to support their bill because it would ensure that veterans had equal access to state-legal medical cannabis. The letter stated that while most state-legal medical cannabis programs will allow patients with a recommendation from a medical provider to enroll, VA policy bars Veteran Affairs doctors and care providers from taking part in medical cannabis programs, including helping veterans fill requisite forms.
This policy makes it virtually impossible for military veterans who could benefit a great deal from medical cannabis treatment to enroll in state-legal medical cannabis programs without having to seek medical care outside of the Veteran Affairs system, the letter stated. The policy often results in gaps in care, interrupts the continuity of care and forces veterans to pay for medical cannabis out of pocket.
The letter notes that VA clinicians shouldn’t be prohibited from recommending medical marijuana treatment to their patients if the veteran’s condition warrants it. Furthermore, it states that veterans shouldn’t be forced to leave the VA system just to access a medical treatment that is legal in their state.
The Veteran Access Act would give VA providers authorization to provide recommendations, offer their opinions on medical cannabis and help veterans complete forms pertaining to medical cannabis.
However, the letter noted that the upcoming legislation didn’t allow VA clinicians to dispense or prescribe patients with medical marijuana nor did it mean that they are required to provide recommendations and help with paperwork relating to medical marijuana programs. All the legislation does is allow VA clinicians to talk about medical cannabis candidly with their patients and offer recommendations and opinions that are in their best interests.
The letter also states that the legislation already has the support of several veteran and cannabis advocacy groups including NORML, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Council for Federal Cannabis Regulation, Drug Policy Alliance, U.S. Cannabis Council, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IVAV).
It is unfortunate that veterans seem to be getting the short end of the stick when it comes to accessing medical marijuana while they deserve the best after serving their nation with utmost dedication. Modifying the discriminatory regulations would allow those who live in states where home grows are allowed to also grow their own cannabis, perhaps even using micro gardens such as those sold by Advanced Container Technologies Inc. (OTC: ACTX).
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