Federal Bill Would Legalize Medical Marijuana for Veterans

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Legalization proponents hope a medical cannabis bill for veterans will usher federal marijuana rescheduling

New federal legislation would legalize medical marijuana for military veterans. Filed in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, the bill affirms veterans rights to use, possess, or transport medical marijuana in states where the drug is legal and protects those rights on a federal level.

Federal law prevents VA doctors from officially recommending medical marijuana to veterans. Despite that fact, a growing number of military veterans have been outspoken about their marijuana use, claiming it is a life-saving treatment for conditions that plague the veteran community, specifically PTSD and chronic pain.

The bill is sponsored by Democratic Senators Bill Nelson and Biran Schatz and is called the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act. It would authorize physicians working for the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend cannabis to their patients, so long as the recommendation is in line with state laws where the veteran resides.

The bill goes further than providing access for veterans by requiring the VA to study the drug. The VA would be required to keep data on the use of cannabis to treat conditions including pain, along with the relationship the reduction of opioid use among veterans and other metrics related to marijuana access. The VA would receive $15 million to fund the research.

The legislation is not permanent and is written more as a five-year trial. During that time, veterans would be granted the same access to medical marijuana as any other resident in the 31 states where the drug is legal. Proponents of marijuana legalization hope the bill will usher the rescheduling of marijuana.

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