The fate of veterans hoping to get easier access to medical cannabis is in the hands of the House Rules Committee, who will vote whether to allow an amendment to be added to the Department of Veterans Affairs budget. Rep. Earl Blumenauer's “Veterans Equal Access” amendment would allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana for any veteran living in a canna-legal state.
This is Blumenauer's fourth attempt to pass the legislation. His amendment failed to pass the House in 2014 and 2015, but was approved by both chambers of Congress last year. Unfortunately for veterans, a conference committee reconciling the House and Senate versions of the 2016 VA bill cut the amendment at the last minute.
“All we’re trying to do is make conversations between veterans and their VA providers about all treatment options more accessible,” Blumenauer said. “We have Republicans, Democrats, and veterans behind this effort. Our hope is that the Rules Committee will take note of the overwhelming bipartisan support for this amendment, show compassion for our veterans, and give us a vote.”
If approved by the Rules Committee, Blumenauer will be able to propose the amendment next week when the House debates the VA appropriations bill. If the committee rejects the amendment, it will be off the table until next year.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has already voted to approve the amendment in the Senate version of the bill. “To not enable an individual to have the conversation with their doctor about the pros and cons of this potential remedy is to take away a dialogue important to a veteran’s health,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, who proposed the amendment in the Senate. “It’s important we pass this here and make sure it survives conference committee and goes to the president. Let’s take this opportunity to stand up for our soldiers.”
“I believe everything that could help veterans should be debated by Congress and medical experts,” VA Secretary David Shulkin said in May. “If there is compelling evidence that is helpful, I hope the people look at this and come up with a right decision, and we will implement that. There may be some evidence this is beginning to be helpful.”