The House late Wednesday rejected an effort to free up federal doctors to be able to recommend medicinal use of marijuana to their patients, with opponents saying that as long as the drug remains illegal under federal law, employees paid for by taxpayer money shouldn’t be recommending it.
The proposal would have let Veterans Administration doctors practicing in states that have approved marijuana for medical or recreational use talk to their patients about the drug.
“Let’s get out of the way, make sure we empower the VA physicians to do their job,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican. “Our veterans deserve that from us.”
Rep. John Culberson, Texas Republican, said the issue of marijuana should be left to the states, but said as long as federal law prohibits its use, government employees shouldn’t be endorsing its use.
And Rep. John Fleming, a Louisiana Republican who is a doctor and veteran, said it was a bad idea to introduce a potentially addictive drug to veteran patients.
“The last thing in the word we should be doing is giving medical marijuana to people with these disorders,” he said.
The proposal was defeated 222-195, with 204 Republicans and 18 Democrats opposed, and 22 Republicans and 173 Democrats in favor — a relatively close vote that reflects changing attitudes about the drug in the country at large.
Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have approved marijuana either for recreational or medical use.
Some veterans want to see the government approve studies to determine whether marijuana could help them cope with traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder — both ailments that have seen a sharp rise during the war on terror.
Wednesday’s vote came as part of the debate on the annual VA and military construction spending bill.