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Senate Approves Bill Allowing Doctors To Issue Cannabis Recommendations to Veterans

A bipartisan congressional bill – the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Act – has been approved by the Senate that allows military veterans to receive medical cannabis recommendations issued by government doctors.

Doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will be able to recommend medical cannabis to their patients in states where it’s legal.

The bill provides support for critical housing, infrastructure, and facilities for U.S. military forces and their families, as well as increased funding for veterans health care and benefits.

The measure was advanced by a bipartisan vote of 28-0.

Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Susan Collins, stated: “The significant investments this legislation makes in America’s military are critical to our national security, helping to ensure our military’s readiness and safety while reducing maintenance costs.

“The bill also supports much-needed funding to improve medical care and housing for our nation’s veterans. As the Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, I will continue to champion this funding as the appropriations process moves forward.”

Previously, VA doctors were not authorised to issue recommendations on medical cannabis, even in states that have legalised the plant for medical or recreational use.

Supporters of the Bill have said that it provides a modest but meaningful reform for the veteran community.

Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley reintroduced the legislation in April.

Speaking on the passage of the bill, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, stated: “…despite the tough funding constraints, these bills move our country forward—not back—with important investments to keep our promise to our nation’s veterans, to get Americans where they need to go safely, to increase our housing supply, address the homelessness crisis, support our farmers and ranchers, keep American families healthy and safe, and much more.”

Speaking at the time of the legislation’s reintroduction, Wyden stated: “Veterans in Oregon and nationwide are unfairly and unacceptably stuck in a legal gray zone when discussing medical cannabis with their doctor.

“Veterans deserve the opportunity to explore various treatments with their doctor without fear of prosecution or employment ramifications.

“The Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act would protect veterans who use medical cannabis while also directing the VA to research how medical cannabis could help veterans manage their health and well-being. I’ll fight tooth and nail to get this bill over the finish line and help get veterans the care they deserve and earned with their service.”

Merkley also stated: “Outdated laws should not arbitrarily preclude VA doctors from prescribing the treatment that’s best for veterans. Our veterans have given too much to be met with roadblocks to the care they need.”


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