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House Poised to Vote on Removing Marijuana from Controlled Substances Act, Opening Up Possibilities for Alternative Treatment at the VA

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The Department of Veterans Affairs has long chosen not to incorporate the use of marijuana as a treatment option for veterans, listing the drug’s position on the federal controlled substances list as a primary reason.

After nine months of silence, it appears the House of Representatives will be voting soon on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. However, a specific date for the vote has not been determined.

The legislation would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances on the Controlled Substances Act, but states would still decide on the legality of it themselves.

The MORE act, though progressing in the House, faces a likely demise in the Senate. Nevertheless, the recent move marks one of the most significant steps from Congress so far in changing the federal marijuana policy. Even if the bill fails in the Senate, the vote in the house is historic.

Even in states where marijuana is legal, the VA has not allowed their physicians to recommend its use for veteran patients. This is because of the federal prohibition. The argument is that it would put their doctors at legal risk. VA leaders have said it would take an act of congress for things to change at the department.

The legislation contains a specific provision for veterans that would allow VA doctors, or contracted doctors, to make treatment recommendations to veterans that qualify in states where marijuana is legal. So far, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Additionally, polls have shown that most Americans believe the drug for medicinal uses should be legal.

Any legislation thus far has been met with opposition from VA leaders and Senate Republican leaders. There are some veterans who have also opposed such legislation, worrying that their potential use of marijuana would jeopardize their VA benefits. As a result, lawmakers have introduced bills to prevent that exact scenario, though none have passed thus far.

Though no real significant progress has been made, both sides of the aisle seem to agree that there is a need for the VA to study the potential use of marijuana as treatment, suggesting that there would be bipartisan support if such studies yielded positive results.

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