April 15, 2021

Reps. Lee and Joyce Join with Senator Schatz to Introduce Legislation to Protect State-Legal Medical Marijuana Programs for Veterans

Washington, D.C. –  Today, Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Dave Joyce (R-OH), co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, joined with Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) to introduce the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act of 2021, which would allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to discuss and potentially recommend medical marijuana to veterans in states that have established medical marijuana programs.

This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would create a temporary, five-year safe harbor protection for veterans who use medical marijuana and their doctors. The bill would also direct the VA to research the effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain, as well as the relationship between medical marijuana programs and a potential reduction in opioid abuse among veterans.

“It has been scientifically proven that medical marijuana has a considerable impact in treating conditions common with veterans when they return from service, like chronic pain and PTSD,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “This legislation will empower veterans and their doctors to make informed decisions about the use of medical marijuana to treat chronic conditions in states with legal medical marijuana programs without federal interference. As the proud daughter of a veteran, I’m committed to working in Congress to ensure every veteran has a roof over their head, a job that pays them a living wage, and access to the health care services they deserve when they return home.”

“In 36 states, doctors and their patients have the option to use medical marijuana to manage pain—unless those doctors work for the VA and their patients are veterans,” said Senator Brian Schatz. “This bill protects veteran patients in these states and gives their VA doctors the option to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans, and it also promises to shed light on how medical marijuana can help with the nation’s opioid epidemic.”

“There is a growing body of evidence about the beneficial uses of medical cannabis as treatment for PTSD and chronic pain, two terrible conditions that plague many of our veterans,” said Congressman Dave Joyce. “If a state has made it legal, like Ohio has, the federal government should not be preventing a VA doctor from recommending medical cannabis if they believe that treatment is right for their patient. As the son of a World War II veteran who was wounded on the battlefield, I’ve seen firsthand the many challenges our nation’s heroes face when they return home. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important bill and will continue to do everything in my power to ensure we are providing our veterans with the care they need to overcome the wounds of war.”

Medical marijuana is currently legal in 36 states and 4 territories and more states are making progress on this issue. Research has indicated that medical marijuana can be a valuable treatment option for a wide range of clinical applications and has been used to help treat chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Opioid related drug overdoses account for the majority of drug overdose deaths in the United States and Veterans are twice as likely to die from opioid related overdoses than nonveterans. 

To read the full text of the bill, click here.

The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act is supported by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), VoteVets, Minority Veterans of America, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Veterans Cannabis Project, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), NORML, National Cannabis Roundtable, U.S. Pain Foundation, Drug Policy Alliance, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Veteran’s Initiative 22, Arizona Dispensary Association, California Cannabis Industry Association, and Hawaii Cannabis Industry Association.