HONOLULU — U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said Friday he reintroduced legislation to allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans in the 36 states that have established medical marijuana programs.
“In 36 states, doctors and their patients have the option to use medical marijuana to manage pain—unless those doctors work for the VA and their patients are veterans, ” Schatz said in a news release. “This bill protects veteran patients in these states and gives their VA doctors the option to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans, and it also promises to shed light on how medical marijuana can help with the nation’s opioid epidemic.”
The bill creates a temporary, five-year safe harbor protection for veterans who use medical marijuana, the statement said. It also would direct the VA to research how medical marijuana could help veterans better manage chronic pain and reduce opioid abuse.
Schatz said the bill is cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.). Companion legislation has been introduced in the House by U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Dave Joyce (R-Ohio ).
“Our members have spoken loud and clear on this issue, ” said Jeremy Butler, CEO for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Eighty-eight percent of respondents to our most recent member survey approved of cannabis use for medicinal purposes. With such overwhelming support, we need to be removing barriers to care for veterans, not maintaining them. IAVA applauds Sen. Schatz for reintroducing the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act to do just that.”