Military veterans in legalized states would be shielded from losing their federal benefits for marijuana use under a bipartisan bill that was filed in Congress on Wednesday. The legislation would also allow physicians at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recommend medical cannabis to their patients.
Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) introduced the bill, which seeks to codify an existing VA policy that prohibits penalizing veterans by stripping their benefits if they use cannabis in compliance with state law. On top of enshrining those protections into federal law so they couldn’t be changed by a future administration, the legislation would also amend VA rules that currently block the department’s doctors from filling out forms for veterans to obtain medical marijuana in accordance with state law.
Currently, VA doctors are only permitted to discuss marijuana with patients and document their usage in medical records. Those policies would also be codified under the bill, which is titled 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 in a press release. “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 (VA) benefits.”
Interestingly, while the press release states that the legislation only applies to “veterans living and receiving care in states that have approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes,” the text of the bill does not specify that its provisions are exclusive to medical cannabis states.