POLITICS

House Bill Would Give Veterans Easier Access To Medical Marijuana

02/03/2015 07:11 pm ET | Updated Feb 03, 2015
ASSOCIATED PRESS

A bipartisan bill introduced in the House of Representatives Tuesday would allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans in states where it is legal.

The Veterans Equal Access Act would allow VA doctors to recommend or offer opinions about medical marijuana for veterans suffering from serious injuries or chronic conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. VA doctors are currently prohibited from aiding patients seeking medical use of marijuana.

“Post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury can be more damaging and harmful than injuries that are visible from the outside,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a co-sponsor of the bill. “And they can have a devastating effect on a veteran’s family. We should be allowing these wounded veterans access to the medicine that will help them survive and thrive, including medical marijuana -- not treating them like criminals and forcing them into the shadows. It’s shameful.”

Nearly 30 percent of veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from PTSD and depression, according to a 2012 VA report. Some research has suggested marijuana may help PTSD symptoms, which can include anxiety, flashbacks and depression. A recent study found that PTSD symptoms in patients who smoked cannabis were reduced an average of 75 percent.

Other co-sponsors of the bill include Reps. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.).

Currently, 23 states allow the medical use of marijuana. Ten of those states, as well as Guam, allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana for PTSD-related symptoms. The plant remains illegal under federal law for all uses.

“The men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have made tremendous sacrifices for our country," said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for Marijuana Policy Project. "They deserve every option available to treat their wounds, both visible and hidden."

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