The U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment last week that will enable veterans to access medical cannabis therapies through Veterans Affairs.
Military veterans are disproportionately represented in patients suffering conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain – conditions that medical cannabis is showing promise in treating.
It’s estimated that 25 million US veterans suffer chronic pain and approximately 22 veterans are committing suicide each day, many as a result of PTSD.
However, VA policy that expired in January banned doctors from recommending medical cannabis to military patients. Since January, lack of a new policy meant the status quo remained the same.
This has meant that patients dependent on Veterans Affairs for support in health care have not had the same access to medicinal marijuana programs in states where cannabis medications have been legalised. Under the policy, a doctor couldn’t even discuss the potential benefits with VA patients.
While veterans could consult another doctor for information and access; with treatment so expensive in the USA, this option really wasn’t viable for low-income veterans as the cost is borne by the patient.
The amendment that changes this scenario passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday; approved by a vote of 233-189. Last year, a similar amendment fail to pass by a small margin.
The amendment text is brief, but critical. It reads:
None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement, administer, or enforce Veterans Health Administration directive 2011-004 (or directive of the same substance) with respect to the prohibition 5 on ‘‘VA providers from completing forms seeking recommendations or opinions regarding a Veteran’s participation in a State marijuana program’’.
Americans For Safe Access praised the outcome.
“We are pleased that both the House and Senate have made it clear that the Veterans Administration should not punish doctors for recommending medical cannabis to their veteran patients,” said Michael Liszewski, ASA Government Affairs Director.
The impact this amendment will have, once signed into law, will cover many veterans and their doctors. 41 U.S. states offer some type of medicinal marijuana program.
The amendment will now go to U.S. President Barack Obama for his signature.