In a landslide vote on June 25, the U.S. Senate approved a funding bill for the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) through 2019, which includes a provision about veterans and their cannabis protections.
S.3024, entitled the “Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019,” was introduced earlier this month on June 7. The Senate voted 86-5 in favor of a provision protecting veterans by allowing them to receive medical cannabis recommendations from government doctors.
The provision included in S. 3024 has been set up to establish what the VA’s budget covers concerning veterans who consume medical cannabis. This includes keeping the VA from preventing any veteran from participating in any medical cannabis program, ensuring that the VA must provide all veterans with the same services regardless of whether or not they consume cannabis, and ensuring that the VA can’t interfere with a veteran’s choice to go to any specific doctor (as seen in section 249).
Bills in relation to veterans rights to consume cannabis have traditionally had a difficult time being discussed and approved by Congress. Although the topic has been discussed multiple times, cannabis-related bills for veterans have never been able to proceed far enough, or have enough support, to become law. According to Marijuana Moment, the Senate was able to approve this legislation because an Appropriations Committee voted to approve the amendment on June 7.
Although progress is slow, there are many politicians who believe that veterans deserve the right to have a doctor prescribe medical cannabis. “Pretty miserable legacy, and this is an example something that the overwhelming majority of people in both the House and the Senate support. There’s bipartisan support for it. There’s no reason that it shouldn’t be debated,” Congressman Earl Blumenauer told Marijuana Moment about the state of veterans.
The bill is not yet law, but it is on the right course if all goes well. Next, a Bicameral Conference Committee will discuss concerns between the House and Senate. The final version of the bill that comes from those meetings will be presented to President Trump for final approval.