US Senators Cast First-Ever Vote In Favor of Medical Marijuana Access

The majority of the US Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday cast votes in favor of expanding medical cannabis access to United States veterans. The committee vote marks the first time that a majority of any body of the US Senate has ever decided in favor of increased cannabis access.

Committee members voted 18 to 12 in favor of The Veterans Equal Access Amendment, sponsored by Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. It was added in committee to a must-pass military construction and veterans affairs spending bill (the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act). The bill is “certain” to pass on the Senate floor, according to a Drug Policy Alliance press release.

Weeks ago, House members narrowly killed a similar amendment in the House version of the Appropriations Act by a floor vote of 210 to 213. Once the Senate version of the act is passed by the Senate floor, House and Senate leaders will need to reconcile the two versions.

The Daines/Merkley amendment permits physicians affiliated with the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recommend cannabis therapy to veterans in states that allow for its therapeutic use. Under current federal law, VA doctors are not permitted to fill out written documentation forms authorizing their patients to participate in state-sanctioned medical cannabis programs.

Stand-alone legislation (HR 667) to permit VA physicians to recommend cannabis therapy is pending in the US House of Representatives, Committee on Veterans Affairs: Health Subcommittee. A similar provision is also included in Senate Bill 683/HR 1538, The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act.

NORML coordinated its 2015 legislative ‘fly-in’ and lobby day in Washington, DC this past week, where many attendees visited with US Senators and urged them to vote for the Daines/Merkley amendment, among other pending reform legislation. Archived presentations from the conference are online here.

To learn and/or to contact your elected officials in regard to other pending marijuana law reform legislation, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

21 thoughts

  1. Once the Senate version of the act is passed by the Senate floor, House and Senate leaders will need to reconcile the two versions.

    This reconciliation thing is a mysterious process to me.

  2. Congratulations NORML! Finally all our hard lobbying work is paying off!

    The message is clear; 17 veterans are committing suicide per day for symptoms of PTSD that are treatable with %75 efficiency through the consumption of marijuana. This memorial day let America pray for the courage our NORML lobbyists and may we invoke the spirit of courage and healing in our Congress to save our veterans from a deadly prescription of narcotics and neglect, and replace it with the recommendation of legal access to cannabis.

    Cannibis Liberamus

  3. So, great… Preferential treatment as long as you sign on to be a meat shield for some idiots politics… and before you flame me I am a veteran(The job was bs).

  4. Oh the irony…anybody that lives in a free country wouldn’t need “senate permission” to use cannabis.

    The problem veterans have is they were duped into being cannon fodder. Kaiser Wilhelm really knew what he was doing when he got those mandatory government schools going paid for by an automatic ransom on the very homes, veterans were duped into thinking they are “protecting”. Of course my comments will set many a cognitive dissonance alarm off.

  5. I to am a veteran, and I too did not enjoy the ‘police action’ but it has long since been known.. Soldiers and veterans alike are the USA’s guinea pig. I remember vividly having me walk 20-25ft in a straight line. With each step, was a needle in both arms. We are the guinea pigs for the masses…

  6. The problem veterans have is they were duped into being cannon fodder. – Bob Constantine

    War is a racket.

    The racketeers who gained ever more green dollars by and through investing the blood of our people belong in prison.

    Duped Soldiers deserve the best treatment of all!

    The Masters of War want to profit from disposable “fighting units”?…Yes?

    It’s evil to gas these kids heads up with war propaganda…send them into wrongful wars of aggression for the enrichment of 1% class “money hoarders”…and then kick those same Soldiers to the curb when they are wounded in mind, body and soul.

    Oil and Democracy don’t mix?

    America used to manufacture products and provide services to the World…now we seem to thrive on Oil Wars fought by Soldiers who are duped into becoming paid mercs for Big Oil/Big Bidness…but no cannabis to relieve the nightmare this Country has become.

    America 1776 – 2000 R.I.P.

  7. Like many vet’s I don’t trust the gov and don’t want to be on a list. This is the one roadblock to all state/gov sponsored medical cannabis programs.I appreciate the efforts made but many of us will be left out in the cold unless legislature protects our rights from do good politicians and feel good laws.

  8. How nice that at least some of them have finally done the right thing! It is outrageous that our soldiers, many suffering from PTSD, have not been allowed to use a medicine that thousands of them say works better than anything else they have tried; marijuana of course!

    Idiots like Chris Christie does not believe it has any medical benefits and would choose to lock us up rather than admit he is wrong; it’s all about him and screw everyone else.

    Most of the other Republican presidential candidates are not that different. Hilary says she needs to see the evidence… To that I say “Open you damn eyes!!! The evidence is there and has been for a long time.”. Even if it did not have any medical benefit, can anyone successfully argue that there is less harm in locking someone in prison for years vs letting them use cannabis??? I’m sure Jeb Bush would argue for locking cannabis users up unless, of course, that person is a family member or friend.

    Enough of my ranting… I just get so disgusted with most of today’s politicians that it practically makes my daily dose a necessity to ease the stress of their idiocy and the paranoia that comes from the fear of being busted.

    America – The Land of the Incarcerated and a place where racism continues to thrive at the highest levels of our Govt

  9. The control of trained servicemembers after their release back into society has been the responsibility of the VA. Manipulating their healthcare decisions led to the current crisis and their insistence that giving the minimum and demanding the maximum is just the way our culture is now operating. If you do not continue with the status quo, you will be deemed a domestic terrorist and dealt with accordingly.

  10. I thought this article from Newsweek, originally published by the Brookings Institute, was worth posting here;

    “Regardless of the outcome of the Daines-Merkley amendment and of the ultimate consequence of the policy change, the passage of this legislation tells us something significant about the trajectory of marijuana policy in the United States.

    The grip of the war on drugs on American political institutions is weakening. Legislators are likely responding to a combination of rapidly changing and concrete public opinion and a coordinated, professionalized lobbying effort.”
    Congress members and Senators no longer see marijuana policy as a hot-button issue mired in the culture wars of American politics. Instead, (medical) marijuana is a health care issue that is being debated in the halls of Congress, not as a taboo but as mainstream public policy.

    Congress keeps signaling its transformation on this issue and the Daines-Merkley amendment’s greater significance may be the sign that this transformation may finally have broken down the doors to the Senate chamber.”

    John Hudak is a fellow of governance studies and managing editor of the FixGov blog at the Brookings Institution, which is where this article first appeared.

  11. I was just fishing around for the latest analysis on this amendment

    When I ran into this:

    There is something rotten in the State of Arizona. But perhaps there is still method to this madness:

    Dr. Sisley, the leading researcher on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, marijuana and veterans affairs is being denied a lecture by the Arizona VA even though she has successfully achieved DEA, NIDA AND FDA approval for her research proving the medical efficacy of marijuana to treat veterans with PTSD.
    The VA argues that “she already lectured before,” referring to a 2012 lecture when her research was still incomplete and she hadn’t miraculously jumped through all the flaming hurdles the CSAct throws in front of this research in order to access U. Of Miss. Government weed much less gain FDA approval to study further, (good work Dr. Sisley!)

    We may recall Dr. Sisley from being fired by the University of Arizona last year before she achieved FDA approval. Since then it has been revealed that Arizona law enforcement and the state’s attorney general have been using tax payer funds to influence the success of more prohibitionist campaigns.

    It should be added that Arizona is also the source of the Fast and Furious scandal during President Obama’s first term where Arizona law enforcement and the ATF were caught selling weapons to both sides of the Mexican President Calderon, U.S. DOJ and Mexican cartel drug war, tracing weapons to cartels and the Mexican army. The ATF has exclusive right to disclose the serial tracking numbers of all U.S. sold weapons, putting them in collusion with DOJ “tracer programs” that sell weapons to all sides of contrived civil drug wars for the profit of the DOJ and local law enforcement using tax payer dollars; hence, a military-drug-prison-industrial complex.

    The result was these weapons killed thousands of innocent Mexican and Central American civilians. The drug and weapons complex was not revealed until a DEA agent was killed, allegedly on “vacation” while dressed in his badge and full kevlar.

    Arizona has a corrupt private corrections industry as well that funded all the racist campaigns for police “ID profiling” legislation years ago in order to fill prisons with immigrant women and children.

    At this rate, Arizona has more corruption per capita than FIFA.

    So the main question, besides, when do we nullify the Controlled Substances Act, is
    how can we help Dr. Sisley get her presentation to the VA’s office?
    Can we crowdsource?
    Can she and Dr. Gupta team up for an exclusive investigation of the Arizona VA?
    And more generally: What can this VA marijuana amendment do for states struggling to amend their own VA medical marijuana access to weak CBD only bills?

  12. “At this rate, Arizona has more corruption per capita than FIFA.” Well, when you end capitalism and institute this weird, “the more harm you bring the more we’ll pay you” system we have under the CSA teach police corruption is key to making money. Hard work doesn’t pay, making sure you’ve got the real criminals isn’t as easy as just pointing your finger at a weed head and blaming them for your and society’s failures. They are currently get paid to point their fingers and that isn’t legal in our capitalist system in which lies are excluded from our courts.

    Legalized thievery is still a crime even if no one has the balls to arrest and prosecute you. Facts are what counts so folks can we please start making them count???

  13. How can the “RIGHT” to medicate yourself be given. If this is the medicine you need, it is up to you to decide to use/not use it. Veteran or not (and for the record I am- 11B) NOBODY, even the US Govt. has the right to restrict another human beings quest for the healthiest most enjoyable life we can. I am DAMN SURE William Jefferson Clinton inhaled, and I am sure Little Bushy did a whole lot more than that, yet these are the people who dictate what you can and can not do? They do as they please. I shall too.

  14. I am a disabled USMC veteran. I was a patient in a VA methadone “program”. Opiate Substitution is the official name. I had to drive to a VA hospital every day for years to get a dose of methadone as my pain medicine I chose for chronic pain. There are currently over 200 veterans in this one VA Hospital Opiate Substitution location. Like myself, many of the vets there are needing a medication to help them with chronic pain. Not addiction. It’s an old story of people who finish their ineffective medicine a “doctor” deems “should work,” earlier than their 30 day supply is due to be refilled. No ifs ands or buts. Not to veer off the subject here, a number of those patients have PTSD and would be helped with medical marijuana. Currently, and in my in case, testing positive for THC in a urine test means the “program” will either kick them out of the program or their daily dose will be lowered if they/we happen to read about how effective medical marijuana is for PTSD and are desperate to get thoughts of Vietnam, or whatever PTSD they are suffering from, lessened in their heart and soul. The street once again becomes their only option, because of THC. Where heroin’s cheap, but still to much $ for them, and the temptation is there anyway for the veterans that applied to get into the Opiate Substitution program to get off the street and heroin. Marijuana would absolutely help all of them. The PTSD I went to the VA Hospital for in the first place has now taken a backseat to the new PTSD I deal with. Which is my 10 years of experiences at the VA hospital. I’m dead serious. This bill getting done absolutely will ease our pain and save lives. When nothing makes sense is when people die. Suicide or homicide. None of it makes sense to me.

  15. I am with GC The Va is worse than what ever ails you, They have been jerking me around for about 8 years now, my blood pressure goes up when I walk in the door. I have never tested positive for anything that should not be in my system I had my pain controlled well enough that I could get around. Then out of the blue they take about half of my pain meds and say that is to much pain med that isn’t good for you than a couple months later they take the rest of it and give me methadone in its place, I can’t speak for anyone else but methadone doesn’t do shit for my pain and has some nasty side effects on me. And the useless Dr. says well it should work! I’m ready to move to a state that has medical marijuana law and start smoking. Sorry got a bit off topic.

  16. I 2 am a vietman vet who has been told that i have colon cancer and they cannot operate on it. the college educated dotcor has been prescribing mediciene for different symtoms, but none of the have been efficitive. so now i take multivitamins, b12,omeprazoleand hydrocodonesmg/acetaminophen and canibus which works just fine

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