Congress again has a chance to allow our military veterans and their doctors in the Veterans Health Administration to discuss medical cannabis as a treatment option. Until 2011, the VHA would automatically deny treatment for pain to veterans who use medical cannabis; it is now at the doctor’s discretion. But current policy forbids VA physicians from issuing medical marijuana recommendations to their patients.
A new bipartisan bill, the “Veterans Equal Access Act,” would lift the current ban on VHA doctors recommending it to the millions of veterans who might be helped by it. The bill is sponsored by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with ten bipartisan cosponsors: Dina Titus (D-NV), Justin Amash (R-MI), Paul Broun (R-GA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Sam Farr (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Steve Stockman (R-TX), and Steve Cohen (D-TN).
That’s not the right thing to do just because it would afford them the same First Amendment protections other Americans and their physicians enjoy. As the result of their service, veterans are more likely than the rest of us to develop serious medical conditions that can be safely and effectively treated with cannabis, sometimes uniquely so. Cannabis has been found to help many patients suffering from conditions that can afflict veterans, including chronic pain, cancer, ALS, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorders, and phantom limb pain.