April 19, 2023

Reps. Lee and Joyce, Senator Schatz Introduce Legislation to Safeguard Medical Marijuana Programs for Veterans

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Congressman Dave Joyce (R-OH), Co-Chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) reintroduced the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act. 

This bill 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 bill also appropriates funding for the VA to conduct research on the effectiveness of medical marijuana in treating chronic pain and reducing related opioid overdoses. 

“As the proud daughter of a veteran, I’m committed to supporting our nation’s veterans when they return from service — and that includes ensuring they have access to safe, effective pain management for conditions like PTSD or chronic pain,” said Congresswoman Lee. “It’s time for the federal government to catch up to the states on this issue. If a state has legal medical marijuana programs, VA doctors should have the option to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans – period. The investment this bill makes in expanded research on ways medical marijuana can help alleviate the opioid crisis is also crucial. This bipartisan, bicameral effort will go a long way toward improving the lives of veterans across the country.”

“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 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.” 

“In 41 states and territories and Washington, D.C., doctors and their patients can use medical marijuana to manage pain or treat a wide-range of diseases and disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder – unless those doctors work for the VA and their patients are veterans. Our bill will protect veteran patients in these jurisdictions, give VA doctors the option to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans, and shed light on how medical marijuana can help address the nation’s opioid epidemic,” said Senator Schatz.

“As a veteran diagnosed with PTSD, I am all too aware of the harm caused by preventing millions of veterans from accessing cannabis through the VA even in states where our civilian neighbors can do so. Those who have served our country should have equal access to all available treatments without fear of lost benefits, rights, or other repercussions. Further, in the face of dual opioid and suicide crises impacting the veteran community at a greater rate than the general population, doctors should not have their hands tied when it comes to making recommendations to best treat the veterans under their care,” said Sean Gilfillan, former U.S. diplomat and Army Officer and current co-founder and co-CEO of American Weed Company, an NCR member. “On behalf of the National Cannabis Roundtable, we thank Congresswoman Lee, Congressman Joyce, and Senator Schatz for their commitment to breaking down barriers for veterans seeking alternative treatments and reducing the damaging impact of opioid misuse among our veteran community.”

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

Medical marijuana is currently legal in 38 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. 

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


Congresswoman Lee is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. She serves as Co-Chair of the Steering & Policy Committee, former Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Chair Emeritus of the Progressive Caucus, Co-Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Health Task Force, and Co-Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus. She also serves as Chair of the Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity. As a member of the Steering and Policy Committee, she is the highest ranking Black woman appointed to House Leadership.