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U.S. Senate Endorses Medical Cannabis for Military Veterans, Sends Bill to House

Legislators have wavered on whether to allow Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana for years, but a new bill could be a major breakthrough.

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Photo via U.S. Air Force

Senate lawmakers approved a bill to fund the federal government through 2019 on Monday, including an amendment that would allow Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors to recommend state-legal medical marijuana to returning soldiers and for qualified veterans to use cannabis freely.

According to Marijuana Moment, the Senate approved the highly intricate budget plan by a landslide vote of 86 to 5, advancing the protections for veteran MMJ patients and doctors to a joint legislative committee before the government spending bill is eventually sent to the president.

If approved, the veterans’ cannabis amendment would restrict any VA funds from being spent to “interfere with the ability of a veteran to participate in a medicinal marijuana program approved by a State; deny any services from the Department to a veteran who is participating in such a program; or limit or interfere with the ability of a health care provider of the Department to make appropriate recommendations, fill out forms, or take steps to comply with such a program.”

For years, legislators and veterans alike have called for the VA to embrace medical marijuana, with clinical studies and anecdotal evidence demonstrating the controversial plant’s ability to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, chronic pain, and other ailments common among those with military service.

Just last month, noted anti-cannabis congressman Pete Sessions used his power as House Rules Committee chairman to block a similar piece of legislation in the lower chamber of Congress.

All they want is fair and equal treatment, and the ability to consult with their own physician on all treatment options,” said cannabis advocate Rep. Earl Blumenauer after Sessions tanked the House VA amendment. “By blocking this vote, Chairman Sessions has turned his back on our wounded warriors, common sense, and the will of the American people. He should be ashamed."

If medical marijuana protections for veterans are going to make it into the final 2019 budget bill, a bicameral conference committee would need to side with the Senate’s legislation.