House Republicans Strip Veterans Equal Access Amendment in Dead of Night
June 24, 2016
WASHINGTON, DC– On Wednesday, in the dead of night, as House Democrats held a sit-in for gun safety, House Republicans stripped language that would make it easier for qualified veterans to access state-legal medical marijuana from legislation to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). With no transparency and little opportunity for Members to review, the House passed the legislation shortly after 3:00 AM (ET) that night. The Senate will vote on the legislation next.
Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) released the following statement:
“Our language ensuring fair treatment for our veterans had broad, bipartisan support and passed both Chambers—it’s outrageous that it was removed. To add insult to injury, the legislation was released in the middle of the night, not even giving Members of the House an opportunity to review the language before voting on it. This isn’t right for our veterans, or the American people. We will keep fighting to make sure our wounded warriors have equal treatment and the ability to consult with their VA medical providers about medical marijuana as a treatment option.”
Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) specifically prohibits its medical providers from completing forms allowing a qualified veteran to participate in a state medical marijuana program. This forces veterans out of the VA system to seek a simple recommendation for treatment for eligible conditions under state laws.
On May 19, when the U.S. House of Representatives considered the FY 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, it passed Representative Blumenauer’s Veterans Equal Access Amendment, which would prevent the VA from implementing this prohibition. The amendment passed by 233-189. In April, the Senate Committee on Appropriations passed a similar amendment offered by Senator Merkley to the Senate version of the legislation.