February 14, 2019

Kaine Introduces Bill To Allow Veterans To Access Medical Marijuana Through The VA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Service Committee, joined Senator Brian Schatz to introduce legislation to allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to discuss and potentially recommend medical marijuana to veterans in states that have established medical marijuana programs. The bill will create a temporary, five-year safe harbor protection for veterans who use medical marijuana and their doctors and direct the VA to research the effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain as well as the relationship between medical marijuana programs and a potential reduction in opioid abuse among veterans.

“Right now, in the 33 states where it is legal, doctors may recommend medical marijuana to help eligible patients. Our bill ensures that doctors who work for the Department of Veterans Affairs can discuss and potentially recommend medical marijuana to their patients that are veterans in accordance with state law. To do otherwise amounts to unfairly punishing the men and women who served in our military. The bill would also take an important step in further exploring whether medical marijuana can be a viable tool to help veterans in pain and reduce opioid abuse,” Kaine said.

The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act is supported by the American Academy of Pain Medicine, American Pain Society, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Veterans Medical Cannabis Association, NORML, National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), Americans for Safe Association, Marijuana Policy Project, Drug Policy Alliance, and Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

“Our members have spoken loud and clear on this issue,” said Tom Porter, Legislative Director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  "Eighty-three percent of respondents to our recently-released member survey approved of cannabis use for medicinal purposes. With such overwhelming support, we need to be removing barriers to care for veterans, not maintaining them. IAVA applauds Sen. Schatz for introducing the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act to do just that.”

“When nearly one in four veterans report that they are consuming cannabis for therapeutic purposes, The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act would provide crucial medical and civil protections for the men and women who put their lives on the line to serve this country. It is unconscionable that these brave individuals who stepped up to protect our nation’s freedoms would be treated as criminals when they return home simply for treating their medical ailments with a safe and effective option under state law,” said Justin Strekal, Political Director for NORML. “We applaud and appreciate the leadership by Senator Schatz in putting forward this legislation.”

###