Washington D.C. — This morning, the Senate Committee on Appropriations voted 24-7 to include an amendment introduced by Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in the FY2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill.
The amendment allows military veterans to participate in state medical cannabis programs without fear of losing their military benefits or services and enables Department of Veterans Affairs health care providers to recommend medical cannabis in compliance with state medical cannabis laws.
The amendment was passed in the Senate last year with a vote of 20-10, and passed in the House as well, but removed during a special committee meeting before the final appropriations bill was approved. Three Republican senators who previously voted “no” on the measure, Collins (R-ME), Moran (R-KS), and Hoeven (R-ND) changed their vote to “yes”, indicating a shift in attitudes towards medical cannabis. Today there are 46 states with medical cannabis laws.
“We are thrilled at today’s vote,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access. “This is a landslide victory for Veterans as well as all medical cannabis patients as it demonstrates the growing bipartisan support for this issue. It is time for Congress to pass permanent legislation, such as the CARERS Act that provides protections for all of the over 2 million medical cannabis patients in this country.”
“I am happy to know that a majority of this committee is supportive of protecting the rights of Veterans like me,” said Michael Krawitz of Veterans for Medical Cannabis. “Veterans suffer from a high rate of conditions that can be mitigated with medical cannabis such as PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and chronic pain. The Veteran community should be able to participate in state medical cannabis programs without fear of losing their VA benefits or services.”
When introducing the amendment, Senator Merkley stated , “We often talk about how our soldiers stand up for us, and we need to stand up for them.”