U.S.: Rep. Blumenauer Reintroduces Bill To Expand Medical Marijuana Access For Veterans
Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), along with eight bipartisan cosponsors, on Tuesday introduced the Veterans Equal Access Act to make it easier for qualified veterans to access medical marijuana in states where it is legal.
Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) specifically prohibits its medical providers from completing forms brought by their patients seeking recommendations or opinions regarding participation in a state medical marijuana program. The Act would authorize VA physicians and other health care providers to provide recommendations and opinions regarding the use of medical marijuana to veterans who live in medical marijuana states.
“Post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury can be more damaging and harmful than injuries that are visible from the outside,” Rep. Blumenauer said. “And they can have a devastating effect on a veteran’s family.
"We should be allowing these wounded veterans access to the medicine that will help them survive and thrive, including medical marijuana -- not treating them like criminals and forcing them into the shadows. It’s shameful,” he said.
Approximately 20 percent of the 2.8 million American veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTS and Depression. In addition, a recent study found that of the nearly one million veterans who receive opioids to treat painful conditions, more than half continue to consume chronically or beyond 90 days.
Another study found that the death rate from opiate overdoses among VA patients is nearly double the national average. In states where patients can legally access medical marijuana for painful conditions, often as a less addictive alternative, the hands of VA physicians should not be tied.
“Veterans For Medical Cannabis Access applauds Congressman Blumenauer for standing up for the doctor-patient relationship by re-introducing the Veteran's Equal Access Amendment.,” said the organization’s executive director, Michael Krawitz. “In every state of our union, disabled United States military Veterans stand to gain from this legislation because every veteran deserves the best medical care.
"This requires an open discussion of all treatments available," Krawitz said. "We trust our doctors to prescribe morphine; we should also trust them to appropriately recommend cannabis.”
“The status quo has numerous harmful effects,” Blumenauer said. “It forces veterans into the black market to self-medicate. It prevents doctors from giving their best and honest advice and recommendations. And it pushes both doctors and their patients toward drugs that are potentially more harmful and more addictive.
"It’s insane and it has to stop,” Blumenauer said.
"The Veterans Equal Access Act introduced by Representative Blumenauer and colleagues will allow my doctor to have an honest conversation about the health effects of marijuana,” said Scott Murphy, president of Veterans for Safe Access and Compassionate Care. “If marijuana is the correct option, I value his opinion. If marijuana is not the correct option, I still value his opinion.
"I simply believe my fellow veterans should enjoy the same freedoms and rights as our family and friends," Murphy said. "The willingness to die for America should not be rewarded with less freedom and worse healthcare options.
"This unequal protection for our nations heroes is a stain on American values," Murphy said. "This bill is a great first step to closing the federal policy gap between civilian healthcare and veteran healthcare options."
“The Veterans Equal Access Act first and foremost respects our veterans' first amendment rights to free speech with their doctors,” said disabled U.S. Navy Veteran T.J. Thompson. “When we allow for an open line of communication between patients and doctors, we are able to improve quality of life as well as symptoms.
"With suicide and prescription drug abuse plaguing our veteran population, it is about time that a Member Congress has decided to stand up for those of us who stood up to protect their rights," Thompson said. "We should allow access to a natural herbal remedy that can help -- as opposed to too many prescription drugs that can cause harm.
"I long for a day when I am provided that same freedom of choice at the federal level," Thompson said. "I volunteered my life to protect this country, yet due to federal prohibition and interference, my treatment options as a disabled veteran are limited.”
The bill is cosponsored by Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Justin Amash (R-MI), Tom Reed (R-NY), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Sam Farr (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Dina Titus (D-NV).
Photo of Earl Blumenauer: Ladybud