Senate Greenlights Greater Medical Weed Access for Veterans

The measure would keep the VA from interfering with a veteran's attempt to access medicinal marijuana

VA doctors are currently forbidden from filling out the forms their patients need to participate in state medical marijuana programs. Credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Veterans are typically the ones being celebrated on Veterans Day, but this year they will have something to celebrate themselves: greater access to medical marijuana in states where it is legal.

Doctors with the VA have been expressly forbidden from filling out the forms their patients need to participate in a state medical marijuana program. But on Tuesday the Senate passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs budget for fiscal year 2016. Tucked in the appropriations bill allocating money toward things like veterans' benefits and military construction is a provision that prohibits the department from spending any of the money on efforts that would interfere with a veteran's attempt to participate in a state-approved medicinal marijuana program. The amendment also forbids the VA from denying that vet any services.

The provision bars the money from being used to "limit or interfere" with a VA doctor's ability to recommend a patient participate in the program or to offer advice on therapeutic weed.

"Veterans in medical marijuana states should be treated the same as any other resident, and should be able to discuss marijuana with their doctor," Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. "It makes no sense that a veteran can't use medical marijuana if it helps them and it is legal in their state."

The amendment will be particularly important to veterans suffering from PTSD, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, which cited a 2014 study that showed marijuana effectively reduced patients' PTSD-related symptoms.

The measure, which passed the House in April, will be incorporated into an omnibus spending bill, which lawmakers will have to pass by December 11 if they want to avoid a government shutdown.