A bi-partisan bill has been introduced in the House to make clear that the Department of Veterans Affairs has the authority to study medical cannabis. The measure was introduced by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranking Democrat, Rep. Tim Walz, and Republican committee chairman Rep. Phil Roe.
In a press release, Walz notes that “22 percent of veterans report using cannabis as a safer and more effective alternative to opioids and drug cocktails currently prescribed by the VA for medical conditions such as [post-traumatic stress disorder] and chronic pain.” Another 92 percent of veterans support medical cannabis research, he added.
“While we know cannabis can have life-saving effects on veterans suffering from chronic pain or PTSD, there has been a severe lack of research studying the full effect of medicinal cannabis on these veterans. That is why I am so proud to introduce this legislation. Simply put, there is no department or organization better suited to conduct this critically important research than VA, and there will never be a better time to act.” – Walz in a statement
Roe, a physician, said he is “keenly aware of the need to look for opioid alternatives to treat patients’ chronic pain” but stopped short of supporting the ability for VA doctors to recommend medical cannabis until there is “sound science behind whether or not medical cannabis is an effective treatment.”
“Since serving as Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I’ve heard from many veterans, both with physical and invisible wounds, who believe medical cannabis could benefit them. This is why I support the department researching cannabis just like any other drug to see if this alternative therapy would truly benefit patients.” – Roe in a statement
The bill comes months after former VA Secretary David Shulkin wrote a letter to Walz informing him that “federal law restricts VA’s ability to conduct research involving medical marijuana or refer veterans to such research projects.”
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