Politics

House Votes To Let VA Doctors Recommend Medical Marijuana To Vets

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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The House passed an amendment Thursday giving vets easier access to medical marijuana.

By a vote of 233-189, legislators approved an appropriations measure from Democratic Rep. [crscore]Earl Blumenauer[/crscore], which would block the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from spending any funds to clamp down on doctors who want to issue marijuana recommendation forms to veterans. This would only apply in states where the drug is legal for medicinal use, but it has the potential to rapidly expand vets’ ability to get their hands on marijuana in large parts of the U.S.

Currently, vets have to skip the VA system entirely and visit private doctors to get a recommendation form. This takes both time and money.

“Those patients who want to pursue medical marijuana have to go ahead and hire a physician out of their own pocket,” Blumenauer said. “Not dealing with the medical professional of their choice, their V.A. doctor, who knows them the best.”

While GOP Rep. Charles Dent protested that marijuana policy shouldn’t come in advance of a concrete opinion from the Food and Drug Administration, Blumenauer assured him nothing in the amendment mandates VA doctors fill out forms. Instead, it just opens up treatment options and allows doctors the ability to discuss medical marijuana with patients and, if they feel it’s necessary, fill out a recommendation form.

“It’s looking like this could finally be the year the federal government stops making veterans jump through costly, time-consuming hoops just to get legal access to medical marijuana. Cannabis has shown great promise in helping veterans deal with PTSD and treat chronic pain, and it’s an increasingly attractive alternative to opioids,” Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “There’s absolutely no reason the V.A. should be preventing its doctors from helping veterans who served our country find relief with medical marijuana.”

The Senate will likely vote on similar legislation Thursday.

This isn’t the first time legislators have tried to push this amendment through Congress. The same exact language existed in the fiscal year 2016 VA appropriations bill, but the House ended up striking down the amendment by 213-210.

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