Photo by Matt Laslo

Veterans need access to locally legal marijuana, Cannabis Caucus Co-Chairs write VA

WASHINGTON – Bipartisan leaders of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus are demanding speedy action from leaders at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) so the nation’s veterans can legally access marijuana, instead of opioids.

The four leaders — Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), David Joyce (R-OH), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Don Young (R-AK) – sent a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough this week requesting his department “change” its policy on marijuana so veterans can legally use marijuana for pain-management along with “PTSD and other health issues, including multiple sclerosis (MS) and seizure disorders.”

“Despite its efficacy, antiquated bureaucratic red-tape continues to deny veterans these life-altering treatments,” the letter reads.

The bipartisan co-chairs are hoping to see some VA policy changes soon.

“Maybe create some action by the administration,” Cannabis Caucus Co-chair Rep. Barbara Lee told The News Station at the Capitol. “We should have had this done years ago.”  

And for years veterans themselves – like a 2017 survey showing 81% of veterans wanted marijuana to be a federally-approved treatment method — have been calling for legal access to marijuana, as opposed merely legal access to opioids.

“Veterans around the country deserve to be able to access the treatment that’s going to help them the most,” Lee said.

The bipartisan nature of the letter from the four heads of Congressional Cannabis Caucus is vital.

“I don’t think this should be politicized. This is about, especially with medicinal marijuana, this is about healthcare,” Lee said.

Earlier this month, on Veteran’s Day, VA Secretary McDonough took questions from veterans and their family members where he hinted at a willingness to embrace a policy change.

“My personal views are not that important, especially when I hear the testaments from so many of our veterans,” McDonough said.

“Right now under current law and current policy, we cannot be in a position to get those [medical marijuana] cards to veterans,” McDonough told veterans earlier this month. “In order to get to a point where we would give those cards, we’re going to need both a change of policy, which I’m looking at, as well as a change in law.”

That’s not good enough for the bipartisan group of cannabis proponents in the House.

“Congress and several administrations have enacted various well-intentioned intervention attempts, however, over twenty veterans continue to die by suicide each day—it is past time we stop barring access from these innovative therapies,” the letter from the cannabis caucus continues. “We therefore respectfully urge you to ensure no veteran can be denied medically prescribed cannabis treatments.”  

“America’s veterans have risked life and limb to preserve our freedoms, so we must not allow the unnecessary politicization of medical cannabis to hinder their lifesaving therapies. We stand ready to work with you and your administration in advancing these necessary treatments.”

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