On July 13th, 2017, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 24-7 to include the Veterans Equal Access amendment as part of the 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which will expand access to medical marijuana for our nation’s veterans.
Currently, V.A. doctors are not allowed to submit the necessary paperwork that would complete a medical cannabis recommendation, in states where cannabis therapy is permitted, which then forces military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician.
As an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications, Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis, in order to treat conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress . As published in the 2014 Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, there was a greater than 75 percent reduction of post-traumatic symptom scores following cannabis therapy, based upon a scale of PTSD scores. In recent months, two of the largest veterans’ rights groups, AMVETS and the American Legion, have spoken out in favor of patients’ access to cannabis therapy.
The amendment was introduced by Senator Daines, R-Montana for the second year in a row. Last year, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.
The 24-7 roll call was an increase over last years 20-10 appropriations passage. The changes came from Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) all voting “aye” after having voted against the effort last year and both new members of the committee, Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) voting in favor.