Charles Feldmann, Esq.
An amendment to a budget bill that would have prohibited Veterans Affairs
from spending money to enforce its anti-medical marijuana stance disappeared
from the bill’s final version last week, leaving many proponents
of the measure outraged.
Currently, the V.A. prohibits its doctors from recommending – or
even discussing – medical marijuana with patients, citing the lack
of federally-sanctioned research on medical marijuana as the basis for
its policy. However, many have criticized this approach, stating that
it unfairly penalizes individuals that have served our country, especially
given that their civilian peers do not face such a prohibition when receiving
medical treatment. In addition, individuals suffering from conditions
common in veterans – such as PTSD and physical pain – frequently
cite medical marijuana as helpful in alleviating a myriad of symptoms.
The removal of the amendment, which occurred late Wednesday night in a
closed negotiations meeting while Democrats staged a sit-in on gun control,
has prompted complaint from members of both the House and the Senate,
particularly as it had recently been approved in both chambers. On Tuesday,
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, joined by other members of Congress, called
the late-night removal a “drastic misfortune for veterans”
and “contrary to the will of both chambers,” stating that
the amendment “should have been nonnegotiable.”
However, the amendment’s removal is not necessarily final, as the
bill containing it failed to pass in the Senate on Tuesday for unrelated
reasons. This means that proponents of the measure will have an opportunity
to re-implement the policy prohibition into the final version as they
work through other changes that need to be made. Congress will hopefully
address these changes as early as next week.