Schatz Reintroduces Bill To Allow VA To Prescribe Medical Marijuana To Veterans


WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) today reintroduced legislation to allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans in the 36 states that have established medical marijuana programs.

“In 36 states, doctors and their patients have the option to use medical marijuana to manage pain—unless those doctors work for the VA and their patients are veterans,” Senator Schatz said. “This bill protects veteran patients in these states and gives their VA doctors the option to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans, and it also promises to shed light on how medical marijuana can help with the nation’s opioid epidemic.”

In addition to creating a temporary, five-year safe harbor protection for veterans who use medical marijuana, the bicameral bill would also direct the VA to research how medical marijuana could help veterans better manage chronic pain and reduce opioid abuse.

Schatz’s bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.). Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Dave Joyce (R-Ohio).

The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act is supported by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), VoteVets, Minority Veterans of America, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Veterans Cannabis Project, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), NORML, National Cannabis Roundtable, U.S. Pain Foundation, Drug Policy Alliance, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Veteran’s Initiative 22, Arizona Dispensary Association, California Cannabis Industry Association, and Hawai‘i Cannabis Industry Association.

“Our members have spoken loud and clear on this issue,” said Jeremy Butler, CEO for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Eighty-eight percent of respondents to our most recent member survey approved of cannabis use for medicinal purposes. With such overwhelming support, we need to be removing barriers to care for veterans, not maintaining them. IAVA applauds Sen. Schatz for reintroducing the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act to do just that.”

“The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act represents the most significant reform effort to date for medical cannabis access for veterans. We regularly hear from veterans who are forced to seek unsafe treatment options or are altogether unable to receive care because of the inability to discuss medical cannabis with their VA providers. Allowing the VA to prescribe medical cannabis will make an immediate impact on veteran patients in need. The protection and research advancements afforded by the bill offer a roadmap to a safer, more accessible medical cannabis environment for veterans. Veterans Cannabis Project applauds Senator Schatz and Congresswoman Lee for their lead and encourages their colleagues in Congress to support the bill,” said Doug Distaso, Executive Director for the Veterans Cannabis Project. 

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