Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., introduced legislation Wednesday that would make it more acceptable for veterans to be upfront about their medical marijuana use.
“Our veterans are seeking alternative options to opioids and we should be supporting their desires not to be addicted to painkillers,” said Moulton. “Let’s not kid ourselves, people are using marijuana — including our veterans. We have an obligation to regulate it and make it as safe as possible.”
According to an American Legion survey, 1 in 5 veterans uses marijuana to treat a medical condition. The American Legion also reports that 40 percent of caregivers report that they know a veteran using medical marijuana.
The legislative package would clarify existing laws about incorporating marijuana into a veteran’s treatment plan. The Department of Veterans Affairs still would not be able to give a medical cannabis recommendation, but the law would ensure that veterans know they will not lose their benefits if they admit to using the drug.
“Unfortunately, many veterans fear discussing medical cannabis with their doctors, for fear that their benefits will be jeopardized,” said Gaetz.
The law would also require VA facilities to post the policy “prominently” in their medical offices.
Gaetz and Moulton also propose a nationwide survey to gather data on how many veterans use medical cannabis to treat ailments.
Additionally, the VA would be required to partner with universities that have incorporated marijuana into their medical curricula to help train VA primary care providers.
“Medical cannabis has tremendous potential for veterans. It can reduce chronic pain, without the harmful side effects of opioids, and some early reports indicate that it may even have potential as a treatment for PTSD,” said Gaetz.
Similar legislation has been submitted in the past to reform VA medical marijuana practices, but all have either been dropped or held up in committee.