Washington, DC: Members of the US Senate Appropriations Committee voted last week in favor of expanding medical cannabis access to United States veterans. The 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 decided 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. Sponsors added the provision in committee to a must-pass military construction and veterans' affairs spending bill (the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act). The full Senate is expected to approve the language imminently.
Weeks ago, House members narrowly killed a similar amendment in the House version of the Military Appropriations Act by a floor vote of 210 to 213. Once the Senate passes its version on the floor, House and Senate leaders will 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 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.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500.