Earlier this week, after an impressive display of activism by veterans outside the White House (dropping medication bottles on the president’s doorstep to send a powerful message), the U.S. Senate made history by passing a bill which allows all military veterans to more easily access medical marijuana in states where it is legal.
Under current Department of Veterans Affairs regulations, doctors who work for the V.A. cannot issue cannabis recommendations, even in the 23 states that have laws allowing for medical use, Marijuana.com reports.
Under the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill, however, the department would be prohibited from spending any money to enforce those regulations or to punish veterans who use medical marijuana in accordance with state law.
Voting took place on the eve of Veterans Day.
Said Michael Collins, the deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, in a press release:
“Veterans in medical marijuana states should be treated the same as any other resident, and should be able to discuss marijuana with their doctor. It makes no sense that a veteran can’t use medical marijuana if it helps them and it is legal in their state.”
And many veterans agree. America’s method of over-medicating its men and women who have served has contributed to more problems than solutions.
“There’s something seriously wrong going on. It’s disgusting,” 27-year-old Jose Martinez told The Washington Post. A triple amputee who stepped on a bomb while serving in Afghanistan in 2012, Martinez was prescribed a cocktail of pills and had a debilitating pain pill addiction.
Now that he uses cannabis – a herb capable of helping humans in more ways than one, he is off prescription pills completely.
The newly approved language of the passed bill, excerpted below, was added to the overall bill via a committee vote of 18-12 back in May.
Sec. 246. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available to the Department of Veterans Affairs in this Act may be used in a manner that would–
- interfere with the ability of a veteran to participate in a State-approved medicinal marijuana program;
- deny any services from the Department to a veteran who is participating in such a program; or
- limit or interfere with the ability of a health care provider of the Department to make appropriate recommendations, fill out forms, or take steps to comply with such a program.
Included in the provisions are also a separate package of spending bills that were introduced last month by Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), the powerful chair of the Appropriations Committee. Leaders hope to agree on an omnibus spending package before December 11, the day federal funding runs out.
It’s been a difficult challenge securing veterans this right, but a necessary battle.
Said TJ Thompson, a disabled Navy veteran, on Tuesday:
“On this eve of Veterans/Armistice Day where we remember those who served in the military and the treaty agreement to reach peace concluding WWI, we see this victory as a step toward a peace treaty with the government we volunteered to defend with our lives and as a step toward restoring our first amendment rights and dignity as citizens of the United States.”
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