Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), along with 15 other co-sponsors, have reintroduced the Veterans Equal Access Act, or H.R. 2431. This bipartisan legislation expands and facilitates medical cannabis access to military veterans suffering from chronic pain, PTSD, and other serious medical conditions by allowing physicians affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend cannabis in compliance with state laws.
Presently, healthcare providers in the VA system are forbidden from making medical cannabis recommendations, even in states where cannabis is legal for medical use. This prohibition forces many military veterans to seek the advice of private, and often expensive, out-of-network, physicians.
Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications. A study published in March 2023 showed that one in ten veterans reported consuming cannabis at least once in the past year.
NORML Political Director Morgan Fox, who attended the press conference announcing the bill’s reintroduction along with several supportive veteran advocacy groups and is working with its sponsors Reps. Mast and Blumenauer, said, “It is long overdue for Congress to advance this important legislation. We know that veterans consume cannabis at greater rates than the general public and that many of them do so to effectively manage symptoms of post-traumatic stress, chronic pain, and anxiety, among other health issues. Further, national polling indicates that some 75 percent of military veterans would consider using cannabis as a treatment option if it were available. Yet, federal law currently forbids VA doctors from recommending medical cannabis to their patients, despite its status as a legal and legitimate medicine in most states.”
This legislation has been previously introduced but failed to make it to the floor of either chamber for a vote as a stand-alone bill. In previous sessions of Congress, majorities in both the House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. Unfortunately, it was not included in the final versions of those bills. This language is expected to be offered as an amendment to federal spending legislation this year as well.
Additional information is available in the NORML Fact Sheet, ‘Marijuana and Veterans Issues.’