Congressman Blumenauer to Senator Mark Kirk: Show Respect and Compassion for Our Veterans
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) released an open letter to U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), urging Senator Kirk to show respect and compassion for veterans, change course, and support Representative Blumenauer’s bipartisan proposal to allow Department of Veterans Affairs physicians to provide recommendations regarding the participation of a veteran in a state medical marijuana program.
Since 2014, Representative Blumenauer has led the effort to make it easier for qualified veterans to access medical marijuana – which can be used in many states to treat a variety of conditions, including post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries frequently suffered by veterans. The U.S. House of Representatives this year passed, with broad bipartisan support, his amendment to strike down the Department of Veterans Affairs policy that specifically prohibits its medical providers from completing forms allowing a qualified veteran to participate in a state medical marijuana program. The U.S. Senate passed a similar proposal. Despite bipartisan and bicameral support, the language was stripped from the final legislation in a closed-door conference committee – an occurrence that is very rare.
Senator Kirk was a vocal opponent of the proposal during Senate consideration and was on the conference committee that determined the final language of the legislation. In response, Representative Blumenauer released the following open letter to Senator Kirk.
An Open Letter to Senator Kirk: Show Respect and Compassion for Our Veterans
Dear Senator Kirk:
“I don't think we have too few high veterans out there.”
These were your words about my proposal making it easier for qualified veterans to access state-legal medical marijuana programs.
Our veterans are returning home with injuries that are both visible and unseen—experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries, chronic pain, and more. These wounded warriors should be treated with dignity, respect, and concern, and we should be helping them access the care they need. It is simply unconscionable that instead, you disparage them as drug addicts. Your statement is not only inappropriate, but dismissive of the serious issues faced by our veterans.
We are in crisis mode as opioid addiction and abuse are on the rise, and the risk is higher for veterans, who are frequently prescribed opioids. Of the nearly 1 million veterans who receive opioid treatment for pain, over half continue to consume those pills beyond 90 days. They are dying of opiate overdoses at nearly double the national average.
In many cases, medical marijuana can be a safer, more effective alternative to these highly addictive prescription opioids in treating certain conditions. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), however, prohibits its medical providers from completing forms allowing a qualified veteran to participate in a state medical marijuana program. This outdated and out of touch policy is forcing our veterans outside of the VA system to seek a recommendation for medical marijuana as a possible treatment option in states where it is legal, like Illinois.
The proposal you spoke out against was passed by both the House and Senate with bipartisan votes. It strikes this policy down to allow veterans to consult with their personal VA physician, who know their medical history best, about medical marijuana as a possible treatment option. The proposal in no way requires a VA provider to recommend medical marijuana, but rather makes a conversation on all treatment options between doctor and patient more accessible.
Instead of standing up and fighting for veterans in Illinois and around the country, you, however, introduce unwelcome mockery into the debate. Are you really opposed to giving doctors more options to treat our nation’s veterans? Where is your courage? Where is your sense of moral obligation to help those who served to protect us?
I implore you to show compassion, change course, and support this bipartisan effort.
Member of Congress