In observance of Veterans Day, a series of bills to expand access to medical cannabis for veterans were introduced in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. The legislation, introduced by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), a Marine Corps veteran who served four tours in Iraq, would facilitate research into current cannabis use by veterans, establish new policies at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that respect medical cannabis treatments, and provide medical cannabis training to primary care providers in the VA system.
“Our veterans are seeking alternative options to opioids and we should be supporting their desires not to be addicted to painkillers,” said Rep. Moulton. “Let’s not kid ourselves, people are using marijuana – including our veterans. We have an obligation to regulate it and make it as safe as possible. We also have an obligation to make sure our veterans are getting the best healthcare in the world.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs Survey of Medicinal Cannabis Use Act of 2018 would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to seek to enter into an agreement with a federally funded research and development center to conduct surveys to measure cannabis use by veterans. The surveys would obtain information directly from patients as well as health care providers to determine current cannabis use and attitudes, symptoms or conditions treated, effects, and ingestion practices.
The second bill, the Department of Veterans Affairs Policy for Medicinal Cannabis Use Act of 2018, would encourage veterans to discuss their cannabis use with health care providers in the VA system, and prevent discrimination or denial of treatment from the VA for veterans who consume cannabis or participate in legal state medical cannabis programs.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Medicinal Cannabis Education Act of 2018 would require the VA to train all primary care providers in their system in the use of medical cannabis, as well as to partner with medical schools that include such training in their curriculums.
“For too long, our honored veterans have faced repeated hurdles when trying to access medical cannabis,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “The bills introduced by Rep. Moulton and Rep. Gaetz today will not only help them use the medicine that works for them but will move the VA closer to understanding medical cannabis, which is legal in a vast majority of the country and having a positive impact on the issues facing veterans every day.”
In November of last year, an American Legion poll showed overwhelming support for medical cannabis and increased research among veteran households.
There are now 47 states that allow cannabis to be used in some form. Thirty-three of those states have effective medical cannabis laws, and ten have laws making cannabis legal for adults.