By Rep. Barbara Lee
As a supporter of NORML, I know that you’re aware of the damage that unjust marijuana prohibition continues to inflict across the country, especially on communities of color. What you may not know, is that one group that prohibition falls hard upon is our nation’s veterans.
Polling from the American Legion shows that nearly 1 in 4 veterans consume marijuana to alleviate symptoms of a medical or physical condition. Yet, even in the majority of states where medical cannabis is legal, VA physicians are prohibited by federal law from filling out a state-legal medical marijuana recommendation form.
As a member of Congress, I’m working to change that.
My bipartisan bill, the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act (HR1151), would end the current medical prohibition on VA doctors. Specifically, this bill would also create a federal safe harbor protection for veterans and their doctors in using or recommending medical marijuana where it is legal in that State or Indian Tribe. Similar language to protect VA doctors had been previously considered and approved in both chambers of Congress, but shamefully it was stripped out of the final package.
This year, we can and must succeed in passing this essential legislation and protecting the rights of veterans to access medical treatment and serving those who served us.
Research published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs found a 75% reduction in Clinician-Administered Posttraumatic Scale scores following cannabis therapy. It is my determination that this legislation will allow those veterans who can benefit from the medicinal use of cannabis to have a safe and regulated way to access their treatment.
Prohibiting VA doctors from recommending cannabis to qualifying patients, while continuing to rely on pharmaceuticals drugs like opioids as a treatment, is both a dangerous and illogical policy. We know medical marijuana can be an effective and safe treatment for veterans and it is time to stop making them seek private, out-of-network physicians to access it.
I sponsored the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act because I know it will create an immediate positive impact on the lives of our veterans. Once enacted, veterans will be able to access medical marijuana treatment without the added challenge of accessing a private, non-VA physician.
Together, we can gather enough support to pass this legislation, but it will only happen if enough Americans stand up and demand it. Please tell your member of Congress to support the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act. Visit https://norml.org/action-center/item/federal-legislation-pending-to-expand-veterans-access-to-medical-marijuana
Barbara Lee is a member of Congress representing California’s 13th District.