The Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment Thursday that would allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana as a treatment option in states where it is legal, the Military Times reported. It would essentially allow VA doctors to operate under the same rules as civilian physicians in medical marijuana tates.
The bipartisan amendment, adopted 20-10, is an addition to the fiscal 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies appropriations bill and was sponsored by Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines and Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley. The Military Times reported it marks the second time senators have moved to give veterans further access to medical marijuana at VA facilities. A provision was approved by the full Senate toward the end of last year in the fiscal 2016 VA appropriations bill but was later removed from the final law.
Under the Senate's amendment the VA would be barred from using funds to “interfere with the ability of veterans to participate in medicinal marijuana programs approved by states or deny services to such veterans,” according to the Military Times.
As it stands now, veterans' doctors can't even talk to them about the possibility of their being prescribed medical marijuana, even in a state where it has been legalized. Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C., have legalized medical marijuana, while 17 states have passed laws allowing doctors to prescribe oils derived from marijuana plants.
The VA has recommended that its physicians use practices that have been scientifically proved to be effective to treat issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and pain. And while many veterans are already using medical marijuana to treat PTSD or anxiety, there isn't research proving cannabis is an effective treatment for relieving symptoms.