Washington, DC – Today, Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with ten bipartisan cosponsors, introduced the Veterans Equal Access Act, which would make it easier for qualified veterans to access medical marijuana.
Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) specifically prohibits its medical providers from completing forms brought by their patients seeking recommendations or opinions regarding a Veteran’s participation in a state medical marijuana program. The Act would authorize VA physicians and other health care providers to provide recommendations and opinions regarding the use of medical marijuana to veterans who live in medical marijuana states.
“Post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury are just as damaging and harmful as any injuries that are visible from the outside,” said Blumenauer. “Sometimes even more so because of the devastating effect they can have on a veteran’s family. We should be allowing these wounded warriors access to the medicine that will help them survive and thrive, including medical marijuana, not treating them like criminals and forcing them into the shadows. It’s shameful.”
“Our antiquated drug laws must catch up with the real suffering of so many of our veterans,” said Rohrabacher. “This is now a moral cause and a matter of supreme urgency. It is unconscionable that a VA doctor cannot offer a full range of treatments, including medical marijuana, which in many cases has been shown to have worked, to an American veteran who fought valiantly for our country. Conscience dictates that we not coldly ignore these desperate men and women, and that we remove government from its paternalistic stance between patient and doctor.”
Over 20 percent of the 2.8 million American veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTS and depression. In addition, a recent study found that of the nearly one million veterans who receive opioids to treat painful conditions, more than half continue to consume chronically or beyond 90 days. Another study found that the death rate from opiate overdoses among VA patients is nearly double the national average. In states where patients can legally access medical marijuana for painful conditions, often as a less addictive alternative, the hands of VA physicians should not be tied.
“Veterans For medical Cannabis Access is very proud to stand by Congressman Blumenauer and support the Veterans Equal Access Act,” said Michael Krawitz, executive director of Veterans For Medical Cannabis Access. "The Veterans Health Administration has made it very clear that, as federal employees, they lack the free speech necessary to write the recommendations for Veterans to comply with state programs. This legislation is needed to correct that legal situation and repair this VA doctor patient relationship."
“The status quo has numerous harmful effects,” continued Blumenauer. “It forces veterans into the black market to self-medicate. It prevents doctors from giving their best and honest advice and recommendations. And it pushes both doctors and their patients toward drugs that are potentially more harmful and more addictive. It’s insane and it has to stop.”
The bill is also cosponsored by Justin Amash (R-MI), Paul Broun (R-GA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Jared Polis (D-CO), Steve Stockman (R-TX), and Dina Titus (D-NV)