US Congress clashes with Veterans Office over medical cannabis

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Some want VA doctors to recommend and prescribe the herb; the VA disagrees.

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August 11, 2021

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This story originally appeared on Sheet Report

If the US government has done one thing consistently over the years with cannabis reform, it is to fight its fellow bureaucrats over medical marijuana. Just hours after the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs published an article on Wednesday condemning the plant as a cure for post-traumatic stress disorder, a Senate committee passed a budget proposal that would expand access to marijuana for medical services for veterans.

Put simply, the Democratic-controlled Senate wants VA doctors to be able to recommend and possibly prescribe the herb. The VA says cannabis would make veterans sick even worse than before.

“Research to date does not support cannabis as an effective treatment for PTSD,” said the VA report, written by four of the department’s doctors. “And some studies suggest that cannabis can be harmful, especially when used for long periods of time.”

RELATED: New Study: Cannabis Patients See Improved Sleep, PTSD, and Pain Management

Looking for relief

But US Senator Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, disagrees. Merkley and the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved an amendment to the VA’s budget for 2022 that inserted language prohibiting the office from interfering with or denying service to veterans involved in a legal medical cannabis program.

“We now have 36 states with medical cannabis, and our veterans want to know from their VA doctors what their thoughts are on the pros and cons of treating various problems, including PTSD,” Merkley said.

According to the VA report, more than 20% of US Army veterans aged 18 to 44 and 11.9% of all veterinarians used the plant in 2020. This is an increase from just 9% in 2014. Merkley noted that the numbers are likely underestimated because respondents may fear losing their military benefits if they are identified as users of a federally banned substance.

Federal law called for such sanctions as recently as 2018. And while authorities are no longer supposed to revoke military benefits for medical marijuana users, Merkley said the long-standing fear among veterans caught using the plant could persist.

And after

Congressional support for veterans’ access to medical marijuana over the years has been largely bipartisan. The House has approved legislation allowing VA doctors to issue medical marijuana recommendations to patients on at least four different occasions. But the measure does not yet have the force of law. The 2022 budget adopted in committee on Wednesday has yet to be approved by the entire Senate and House of Representatives before reaching President Joe Biden’s office.


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