- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Veterans would have greater access to medical marijuana under a bipartisan-supported proposal reintroduced in the House of Representatives recently, and more than a dozen members of Congress have already backed the bill’s latest version.

Filed Friday, H.R. 1647, would “authorize Department of Veterans Affairs health care providers to provide recommendations and opinions to veterans regarding participation in State marijuana programs,” according to its language.

It was introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat, and is currently co-sponsored by 12 colleagues, including four Republicans.

“For too long, our veterans have been denied access to highly effective medical marijuana treatment for conditions like chronic pain and PTSD,” Mr. Blumenauer said in a press release, the Marijuana Moment website first reported Monday. “Medical marijuana has shown proven benefits for treating these conditions and denying our veterans access to them is shameful.

“This simple bill would align veterans VA treatment with their very popular state laws, usually approved by the voters,” he said.

Thirty-three states have passed laws legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana to varying degrees, effectively allowing qualifying patients in most of the country to legally acquire pot with a licensed physician’s approval.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, however, so physicians employed by the VA are prohibited from recommending it to patients.

“VA has not taken a position on the bill, but marijuana is illegal under federal law, and until federal law changes, VA is not able to prescribe it,” a VA official told The Washington Times on Tuesday.

Mr. Blumenauer, co-founder and chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, has unsuccessfully proposed similar versions of the bill during the 113th, 114th and 115th Congresses. His previous version, the Veterans Equal Access Act offered in 2017, ultimately garnered the support of 30 co-sponsors prior to stalling during the last congressional sessions.

Several other bills currently pending on Capitol Hill could similarly broaden medicinal marijuana access to military veterans if passed by effectively abolishing the federal prohibition on pot, meanwhile.

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