CRIST CONTINUES FIGHTING TO PROTECT VETERANS ACCESS TO MEDICINAL CANNABIS
New Bipartisan Bills Seek Reforms to VA Marijuana Practices
Last week marking Veterans Day, Congressman Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) joined U.S. Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Lou Correa (D-CA) in introducing legislation aimed at reforming VA medicinal cannabis practices. The Department of Veterans Affairs Policy for Medicinal Cannabis Use Act amends and codifies the VA's medicinal cannabis policy, protecting a veteran's benefits if they disclose medicinal cannabis use. A second bill, the VA Survey of Cannabis Use Act, requires the VA to conduct a nation-wide survey of all veterans and VA healthcare providers to learn about how veterans are using medicinal cannabis. Earlier this year, Crist introduced the Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act, a bipartisan bill protecting veterans' federal employment opportunities if using cannabis in compliance with state laws.
"The VA's policies surrounding cannabis are in dire need of reform as more states allow use and veterans suffering from PTSD and chronic pain increasingly turn to this treatment option over opioids. No veteran should have their benefits or care impacted by their choice to seek the treatment options that work best for them," said Crist. "Furthermore, the VA should research medicinal cannabis so providers can best advise patients. I hope to see swift action on these bipartisan bills to help provide veterans the clarity and care they have earned."
The Department of Veterans Affairs Policy for Medicinal Cannabis Use Act of 2018:
This bill would amend and codify a medicinal cannabis policy the VA has but is not widely disbursed. As more veterans turn to medicinal cannabis to more effectively treat their various service- and non-service related injuries, the relationship with their healthcare providers is becoming ever more important. The VA has a policy protecting a veteran’s benefits if they discuss their medicinal cannabis use with their health care provider; however, not all healthcare providers respond in a standard way and veterans still fear and experience repercussions of some kind. This bill clarifies and codifies patients’ and healthcare providers’ roles and responsibilities in incorporating medicinal cannabis into a patient’s treatment plan and requires the policy to be prominently posted in all VA facilities.
The VA Survey of Cannabis Use Act of 2018:
This bill would have the VA conduct a nation-wide survey of all veterans and VA healthcare providers to learn about how veterans are using medicinal cannabis. From the American Legion’s survey on medicinal cannabis, “22 percent of veterans stated they are currently using cannabis to treat a medical condition and 40 percent of caregivers stated they know a veteran who is using medical cannabis to alleviate a medical condition.” With the growing use of medicinal cannabis among veterans, the VA needs a better understanding of what veterans are doing to self-medicate various conditions.
Both bills have been endorsed by the Drug Policy Alliance, National Cannabis Industry Association, and NORML.
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