NGAUS Washington Report
April 24, 2018
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., the chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, respectively, introduced legislation last week authorizing the Department of Veterans Affairs to research the effectiveness of marijuana in treating various ailments of veterans.
The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 immediately attracted cosponsors from both sides of the aisle.
In announcing the bill, the lawmakers pointed out that a survey of its members by the American Legion found 92 percent support medical research of pot and 82 percent support legalizing medical marijuana. It also found that 22 percent of veterans are using marijuana to treat either physical or psychological wounds.
In a statement, Walz said marijuana seems to be “a safer and more effective alternative to opioids and drug cocktails currently prescribed by the VA for medical conditions such as PTSD or chronic pain.”
Roe, a medical doctor, said he is aware of the need for alternatives to opioids to treat patients with chronic pain.
“I’ve heard from many veterans, both with physical and invisible wounds, who believe medical cannabis could benefit them,” he said. “That’s why I support the department researching cannabis just like any other drug to see if this alternative therapy would truly benefit patients.”
In an interview Sunday with National Public Radio, Walz put the blame on Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the VA’s hesitancy to take on this issue. Sessions has adamantly opposed legalizing marijuana, even for medicinal purposes.
Minnesota allows medical marijuana, but neighboring states do not, Walz said.
“Veterans feel like they’re forced to be criminalized simply because they live two miles west of where they could’ve been,” he said. “And I feel Attorney General Sessions knows that if VA does this and the VA starts prescribing, well, then we have medicinal cannabis in all 50 states and territories.”