U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced legislation today to allow doctors at the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans in the 31 states that have established medical-marijuana programs – including in Florida.
In addition to creating a temporary, five-year safe harbor protection for veterans who use medical marijuana, the bill would also direct the VA to conduct research on the effects of medical marijuana on veterans who are in pain and how prescribing marijuana to veterans can be used to reduce opioid abuse among veterans.
“Federal law prohibits VA doctors from prescribing or recommending medical marijuana to veterans,” Nelson noted. “This legislation will allow veterans in Florida and elsewhere the same access to legitimately prescribed medication, just as any other patient in those 31 states would have.”
Proponents of the senators’ legislation argue that allowing the VA to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans who are suffering from a wide-range of diseases and disorders, including pain management, in the 31 states where it is legal would help reduce the risk of opioid abuse among veterans. Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from opioid overdose.
The bill is supported by the American Academy of Pain Medicine, Veterans Cannabis Project, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, Americans for Safe Access, NORML, Marijuana Policy Project, Drug Policy Alliance, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, Veterans Cannabis Coalition and National Cannabis Industry Association.
A copy of the bill is available here.