A final version of the Department of Veterans Affairs funding bill was passed by Congress on Wednesday night. The funding bill originally included a provision that would have made it easier for military veterans to access medical marijuana in states where medical marijuana is legal. Unfortunately, that provision was stripped before the final bill was passed. Below is more information about it, via a press release that I received from Congressman Earl Blumeuaer’s office:
Despite Congress’s rush to get out of town, Republican leadership still found time to use the continuing resolution legislation to block Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s Veterans Equal Access provision to make it easier for qualified veterans to access state-legal medical marijuana. The provision was passed by both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate with broad bipartisan support earlier this year. Republican leadership, however, removed the provision from the final Department of Veterans Affairs funding bill that passed Congress on Wednesday night.
“It’s incredibly frustrating and disappointing that despite broad bipartisan, bicameral support, a handful of out-of-touch lawmakers put politics over the well-being of America’s wounded warriors. Our veterans deserve better,” said Blumenauer. “We will continue to seek every opportunity to make sure they have fair and equal treatment and the ability to consult with, and seek a recommendation from, their personal VA physician about medical marijuana.”
Since 2014, Blumenauer has led the effort to make it easier for qualified veterans to access medical marijuana – which can be used in many states to treat a variety of conditions, including post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries frequently suffered by veterans. The House this year passed, with broad bipartisan support, his Veterans Equal Access amendment to strike down the Department of Veterans Affairs policy that specifically prohibits its medical providers from completing forms allowing a qualified veteran to participate in a state medical marijuana program. The Senate passed a similar proposal. Despite bipartisan and bicameral support, the language was stripped from the final legislation by Republican leadership in a closed-door conference committee.
In response, Blumenauer and a bipartisan and bicameral group of lawmakers urged Congressional leadership to include the provision in the final funding bill sent to the president. In August, Blumenauer released an open letter to U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), a vocal opponent of the proposal during Senate consideration and on the conference committee that determined the final language of the legislation, calling on him to show respect and compassion for veterans, change course, and support the bipartisan proposal.