After a long battle among government agencies, politicians, and patients, the House today voted to allow Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, and other ailments.
Oregon’s Rep. Earl Blumenauer sponsored the measure, which should open the door for veterans to use Cannabis to treat their conditions without fear of losing their VA benefits or facing jail time, but met with repeated, narrow, denials.
Adamant that those serving in the U.S. military deserve every option available to them to treat the conditions inflicted on them during their service to the country, Blumenauer introduced the item as an amendment to an annual spending bill for VA and military construction projects.
This time, it passed with a 233-189 vote, after 57 Republicans joined all but five Democrats in a ‘yea’ vote.
Blumenauer argued that 24 states, and the District of Columbia, currently offer some form of medical marijuana to treat conditions. Medical Marijuana has seen success treating a host of often debilitating medical conditions, which range from depression to anxiety and traumatic brain injury. The VA estimates that roughly 22 veterans commit suicide each day.
Fourteen states allow doctors to choose the best treatment for their patients even if that treatment includes Cannabis.
“I think it is the right thing to do for our veterans, to be able to treat them equitably, to enable them to have access to the doctor who knows them the best, giving them better treatment and saving them money,” Blumenauer said.
The move means fewer soldiers may have to resort to a lifetime of highly addictive and often deadly opioids as treatment. Still, at least one legislator from a state with a current Medical Marijuana program “reluctantly” opposed the measure.
“As a member of this House, I am a bit uncomfortable, however, in trying to dictate policy on marijuana without guidance from the Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health and other medical professionals,” said Republican Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent. Cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I drug, along with Heroin and Crystal Meth, and therefore cannot be considered “safe” by the FDA, or studied by other agencies to determine it’s potential to heal.