Congress Just Kidding: Denies Vets Access to Medical Weed

What happened to serving the will of the people?

Members of the United States Congress have made a specialty of stopping short of doing something constructive, and then patting themselves on the back as if they had done a substantive good deed.

Back in May, both the House and the Senate passed an amendment to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill that told the Veterans Affairs department not to use federal funds to prosecute V.A. doctors who violated a V.A. policy prohibiting discussion of medical marijuana with patients.

Lawmakers at the time congratulated themselves for having made it legal for a V.A. doctor to talk to a veteran about weed; nothing of the sort had actually been accomplished.

Now, not quite half a year later, Congress has really done something: It passed a Veterans Affairs spending package Wednesday and pointedly excluded a provision that would have allowed V.A. doctors to recommend medical marijuana to treat various ailments common among soldiers returning to civilian life.

The rejected provision, called the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, was authored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). Its language would have allowed V.A. doctors to recommend weed for former soldiers who are living with, for instance, chronic pain or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Initially, both houses of Congress ratified the Veterans Equal Access Amendment in the same May spending package that defunded prosecution of V.A. doctors who spoke of weed. That agreed upon amendment was deleted in June as later versions of the bill were being drafted.

From the Huffington Post:

“It’s incredibly frustrating and disappointing that despite broad bipartisan, bicameral support, a handful of out-of-touch lawmakers put politics over the well-being of America’s wounded warriors. Our veterans deserve better,” Blumenauer said in a statement.

Currently, veterans who live in an American state that offers legal medical marijuana (more than half do) are free to obtain a doctor recommendation from a physician who is not affiliated with the Veterans Affairs agency. However, that recommendation must be obtained at the patient’s own expense, and there is no certainty that the use of marijuana, if detected during a V.A. examination, won’t lead to a discontinuance of other V.A. medication

According to PBS "By the Numbers" statistics, 73 percent of congress members in 1971 were veterans. That ratio had declined to 20 percent by 2010.