Veterans should be allowed to use medical marijuana without losing VA benefits, bill says

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Veterans who live in states where marijuana is legal shouldn’t be punished with losing their VA benefits if they use the substance, a new bill says.

House Bill 2191 was introduced to the House April 9 that would prohibit the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from denying a veteran benefits because they use medical marijuana in states where the substance is legal.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., calls the bill the “Veterans Cannabis Use for Safe Healing Act.”

“As a veteran, I’m committed to ensuring that veterans receive the care they deserve, and I know that sometimes that care can include medical marijuana,” Steube said following the introduction of the bill. “Receiving the appropriate treatment to address your health care needs—using products that are legal in the state in which you live—should not preclude you from your Department of Veterans Affairs benefits.”

The bill would codify what is already a Veterans Health Administration directive to keep up with states legalizing medical marijuana and protect veterans from being denied benefits if they participate.

The bill applies only to veterans living and receiving care in the states that already have legalized medical marijuana.

“While it is the current policy of the VA to not deny benefits to veterans based on participation in these state-based medical marijuana programs, this bill will ensure that no future policy or administration change could put these veterans at risk of losing their benefits when they are in compliance with state law,” Steube said in a statement. “It also allows VA staff to help veterans fill out the forms necessary to enroll in a state-approved program instead of having to rely on a private physician. This makes things easier for veterans who are in desperate need of these medical options.”

VA says on its website that "veterans will not be denied VA benefits because of marijuana use." 

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Follow Abbie Bennett, @AbbieRBennett.