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.