Lawmakers introduce bill mandating VA study medical marijuana

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Photo credit Photo by Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee/TNS

House lawmakers reintroduced legislation on Wednesday that would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to study the benefits of cannabis on veterans, days after a pair of Senators did the same

Introduced by Reps. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) and Clay Higgins (R-La.), the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act is the only piece of legislation to ever make it out of a Congressional committee after the House Veterans’ Affairs committee approved last May. 

The bill would direct the VA to research how medical marijuana can be used to treat service-connected ailments many veterans deal with on a daily basis, like chronic pain or post-traumatic stress. 

“With the opioid crisis raging across America, it is imperative to the health and safety of our veterans that we find alternative treatments for chronic pain and service-related injuries,” Correa said in a statement. “Numerous veterans attest to the treatment benefits of medical cannabis. It’s time the VA did a formal study.”

According to the VA, 60 percent of veterans returning from combat duty live with chronic pain, double that of Americans more broadly. 

“This research is necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis for veterans in states where it is legal,” added Higgins. 

This version of the proposed bill last year is more direct in its language, saying the agency “shall” research cannabis while the previous version said the department “may conduct and support research relating to the efficacy and safety of forms of cannabis.” 

Congress would also receive regular updates from VA on their plan to research and to provide lawmakers any updates if the bill becomes law. Senators introduced similar legislation last week. 

When it comes to marijuana, veterans seemed to have made up their minds with an eye towards Congress to help make the laws more in-line with public perception. 

“In our latest member survey, 63 percent supported, and only 15 percent opposed legalization for the medical use of cannabis,” said Tom Porter, legislative director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. 

“This bill takes a giant and necessary step forward to determine the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis. 

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