This was a rough week for marijuana policy reform in Congress
Emily Gray Brosious
(Photo credit: Alex Milan Tracy/Demotix/Corbis)
Congress shot down three major marijuana policy reform bills this week.
Congressional leadership surprised marijuana policy observers Wednesday night, June 22, by releasing a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) spending package that did not include protections for military veterans seeking medical cannabis treatment through VA hospitals, as reported by Marijuana.com.
The U.S. House and Senate both passed bills last month to extend medical cannabis access to military veterans through the VA, so the absence of such a measure in Congress’ new spending bill was not exactly expected.
The news isn’t good for military veterans seeking to use medical cannabis for relief from physical or psychological pain.
Studies show medical cannabis is an effective treatment for acute and chronic pain, as well as conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. But without Congressional approval, veterans seeking to access this drug must do so outside the VA system, which can be costly and difficult for many.
“I have been deeply troubled about our inability to adequately deal with our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said in May. He sponsored the recent House bill seeking to extend medical cannabis to military veterans.
“The death rate from opioids among VA health care is nearly double the national average … What I hear from veterans is that medical marijuana has helped them deal with pain and PTSD, particularly as an alternative to opioids,” he said.
On Tuesday, June 22, Congressional Republicans also blocked a measure that would protect financial institutions that provide services to state-legal cannabis businesses, as reported by Marijuana.com. As it stands, the majority of state-legal cannabis businesses must operate on a risky cash-only basis.
Congressional Republicans also blocked an amendment Tuesday, June 21, that would allow Washington DC to use its own money to implement a legal retail marijuana market. The district voted in November 2014 to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, but a Congress has prevented it from actually setting up a working retail infrastructure for the cannabis market.