U.S. Senate Approves Medical Cannabis Therapy for Veterans


Mark it down, November 10th, 2015, was the day the United States Senate voted to

approve medical marijuana for veterans. The U.S. Senate voted unanimously to approve the

FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Bill. This is

significant since a bi-partisan amendment sponsored by Senators Steve Daines (R-Montana)

and Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) was attached to the final spending bill after being approved earlier

this summer by the Senate Appropriations Committee. It allows the Veterans Administration (VA)

doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients in states where medical marijuana is

legal. A similar amendment sponsored by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) was

narrowly defeated 210-213 in April by the U.S. House of Representatives. So many might ask,

what’s next?

Next the House and Senate versions of the appropriations bills go to conference

committee in order to reconcile the differences in each chambers appropriations bill. There is a

high probability that the Veterans Equal Access Amendment will be in the final version. Once

out of conference, each chamber will take a final vote before going to President Obama’s desk

for signature.

This is both historic and significant in the fight for safe access to cannabis therapy,

especially for our brave servicemen and women. The Veterans Health Administration currently

does not allow its physicians to discuss marijuana as a treatment option with patients in the

nearly two dozen states with medical pot laws, forcing veterans to turn elsewhere for guidance

and the paperwork necessary to acquire the drug. Even, more veterans in states that have yet

to legalize are losing their medical benefits for utilizing cannabis therapy.

Cannabis has been shown to be a promising treatment for a variety of conditions.

Acting as a pain remedy, anti-inflammatory, and anti-depressant, medical marijuana saves the

lives of thousands of veterans each day. Yet, more needs to be done. An average of 22

veterans commit suicide in America and many more suffer addiction to prescription pain

medications and anti-depressants. Cannabis has been utilized by many vets as an effective

treatment for both PTSD and battlefield injuries. States with legal cannabis have seen lower

suicide rates and lower occurrences of opiate overdoses. These results cannot be ignored.

Medical cannabis therapy must be tackled by Congress. Re-scheduling marijuana in

order to provide safe access to plant-based therapy must be a priority. Contact you member of

Congress and U.S. Senators and ask them to support the CARERS Act as well as the Ending

Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. Furthermore, many states have citizen initiatives and

constitutional amendments to re-legalize cannabis. In Florida, United For Care is sponsoring a

constitutional amendment to provide medical marijuana for debilitating medical conditions and

Regulate Florida is sponsoring a petition to allow adults 21 and up to grow six plants as well as

protect their 2Nd Amendment rights to possess a firearm. Many people don’t realize that even if

you follow all the laws related to medical cannabis, you are still committing a crime by owning a

gun. These amendments complement each other’s shortcomings and can create a great

patient-oriented system in Florida.

Get involved, America! You owe it to our troops, our veterans, our loved ones who

suffer every day to ensure they have safe access to this life-saving treatment. 80 years of

political prohibition is enough.


By Christopher Cano | Executive Director, Central Florida NORML