U.S. Senate Committee Approves Bill to Allow VA Physicians to Recommend Medical Cannabis
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee today approved an amendment to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill that is intended to ease access to medical cannabis for veterans with a condition that the medicine could help.
The amendment, authored by Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), would prohibit the spending of funds on enforcement of a Veterans Health Administration directive that prohibits VA physicians from recommending medical cannabis to their patients, even in states that have made it legal.
“Monitoring patients’ medication decisions and engaging in frank conversations about treatment options are core aspects of the doctor-patient relationship,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “The current policy flies in the face of those objectives. It does nothing to help our veterans, but can potentially hurt them.”
If enacted, VA physicians would no longer face penalties for discussing medical cannabis with their patients or completing the paperwork patients must submit in order to participate in state medical cannabis programs. Currently, veterans in states with medical cannabis laws must find a doctor outside of the VA system to discuss medical cannabis as a treatment option and provide the requisite documentation.
“This measure removes unnecessary barriers to medical marijuana access for the men and women who have volunteered to serve in our armed forces,” Capecchi said. “It will save veterans time and money, and it will allow them to have more open and honest discussions with their primary care providers.”
In order to become law, the full Senate must approve the appropriations bill, the House must adopt similar language in its Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill, and the president would have to sign it. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a similar amendment last year, but it was not included in the final spending bill.