Senate approves bill allowing medical marijuana for veterans

Lawmakers have passed a funding bill that could finally provide veterans with safe access to cannabis.

The Senate on Tuesday passed the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Bill, which includes language that would allow Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients in states where it’s legal, the Drug Policy Alliance reports.

The Veterans Administration currently prohibits their employed physicians to discuss cannabis as an option for treatment, even in states with legal medical marijuana in place. Under the approved amendment, VA physicians and other health care providers would finally be authorized to recommend cannabis to veterans living in medical marijuana states.

“Veterans in medical marijuana states should be treated the same as any other resident, and should be able to discuss marijuana with their doctor,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, in a statement. “It makes no sense that a veteran can’t use medical marijuana if it helps them and it is legal in their state.”

Veterans access to medical marijuana has become an urgent concern as many soldiers returning from battle are using marijuana to combat the chilling effects of PTSD, and also as a safer alternative to antidepressants and painkillers.

The medical cannabis language included in the bill must still be approved in a negotiated spending deal between the Senate and House of Representatives. But advocates and veterans alike remain optimistic, especially since the announcement arrived on the week of Veteran’s Day.

“On this eve of Veterans/Armistice Day where we remember those who served in the military and the treaty agreement to reach peace concluding WWI, we see this victory as a step toward a peace treaty with the government we volunteered to defend with our lives and as a step toward restoring our first amendment rights and dignity as citizens of the United States, ” said TJ Thompson, a disabled Navy veteran, the Drug Policy Allliance.

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