Veterans are often hailed as heroes in the media and on Facebook, but policies and programs have not kept pace with our love of our servicemen and women. Thankfully, in the second week of November, the U.S. Senate passed a measure that takes a small step toward giving our veterans the care they deserve. That is, of course, if it passes.
The measure is attached to the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill – let’s call it the McVaab – which is being negotiated as part of a federal spending bill… which means it isn’t a lock that veterans will gain access to medical marijuana. But it is a move in the right direction, and that isn’t always easy concerning marijuana and politics. This new provision in the McVaab looks to address the growing disparity between federal and state laws. With 23 states and one irony-fueled District of Columbia having legalized medical marijuana, the federal government has begun to accept the need for a serious overhaul of medical marijuana legislation.
The McVaab would now allow veterans in states that have legalized medical marijuana the ability to access their medication without the risk of lost health care. The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) had previously restricted any doctor they employed from even discussing medical marijuana with their patients. Technically the McVaab had allowed the use of medical marijuana for veterans, but there were serious penalties if any veteran chose to do so. Taking home the prize for Biggest Bummer was the requirement that these individuals sign an “opiate consent” form that gave the DVA the right to refuse them prescription drugs if they tested positive for marijuana.
Unfortunately, negative loopholes like this exist in many government and federal programs related to either veterans or marijuana use. While this is regrettable, it also makes sense, as the federal government still considers marijuana a Schedule I controlled substance with “no currently accepted medical use.” Which is why it is so exciting to see one of these holes potentially close. Even the small step currently proposed McVaab that would allow medical marijuana for veterans, if it is passed, would represent a major shift in marijuana momentum in Congress.
Of course it’s still politics, and we wouldn’t advise holding your breath. Unless you just took a hit of clean-grown bud from Karing Kind. Then take a big breath, hold it in… and release.
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