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New Bill Would Give Veterans Access to…Medical Marijuana

"It's shameful."

Photo Credit: FILE

A bipartisan group of House members has proposed legislation that would allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to discuss and recommend the use of medical marijuana for veterans, as long as they live in states where medicinal pot is legal.

Under current law, the VA prohibits its doctors from acting on requests for information or advice on the use of marijuana. But the Veterans Equal Access Act, from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), would allow VA doctors to act on these requests.

Marijuana is weighed and packaged for sale at the Northwest Patient Resource Center medical marijuana dispensary, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, in Seattle. Washington state is on the verge of becoming the first in the nation to let adults over 21 buy taxed, inspected marijuana at state-licensed shops. Supporters of Initiative 502 say allowing recreational pot sales could make drug laws a little more reasonable, prevent thousands of arrests a year, and bring Washington hundreds of millions of dollars to help pay for schools, health care and basic government services.Credit: AP Marijuana is weighed and packaged for sale at the Northwest Patient Resource Center medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle. A group of House members say veterans should be able to access medical marijuana in states where it's legal. Image: AP

"Post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury can be more damaging and harmful than injuries that are visible from the outside," Blumenauer said. "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," he said. "It's shameful."

Blumenauer said tens of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression, and that many could use marijuana instead of more addictive opioids to deal with their condition.

Groups like Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access and Veterans for Safe Access and Compassionate Care said current law punishes veterans with fewer medical choices than those enjoyed by other Americans.

"The willingness to die for America should not be rewarded with less freedom and worse healthcare options," said Scott Murphy, president of Veterans for Safe Access and Compassionate Care. "This unequal protection for our nations heroes is a stain on American values."

The legislation is sponsored by five Republicans and three Democrats: Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Dina Titus (D-Nev.).

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