VA Pushes Oregon Rep. To Drop Veteran Access To Medical Marijuana

Oregon’s U.S. House Representative Earl Blumenauer (D) announced he would retract a proposed amendment that would have allowed physicians to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans living in legal states, after Veterans Affairs officials pushed back, saying that it could send the prescribing physicians into legal peril. 

The allowance for medical marijuana prescriptions was paired with another measure introduced by Blumenauer, to prevent the U.S. Justice Department from punishing physicians operating in legal states for prescribing legal cannabis. However, the House Rules Committee struck that idea down last week.  

Despite Blumenauer’s repeated introduction of this amendment in Congress in each of the past few years, the VA’s argument that physicians prescribing medical marijuana in a legal state could run into trouble with federal law is new. Blumenauer described it as being “blindsided” by the VA.  

“Even though this amendment has passed repeatedly, all of a sudden the VA has decided, well, they would be putting their doctors at risk,” Blumenauer told reporters. “Never came up before. If we’d known about it, we could work it around.” 

VA officials testified the previous week against Blumenauer’s bill and three other cannabis-related bills, including “legislation that would require the department to conduct clinical trials on the therapeutic benefits of marijuana for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.” 

Blumenauer told reporters the VA “has its head in the sand.” In a short speech before formally withdrawing the bill, Blumenauer made a statement saying “Our veterans…need medical marijuana more than any other category of our citizens. We lost 7,000 people to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but we’ve lost 100,000 of those veterans to suicides and opioid overdoses. The VA, I’m afraid, has not been as helpful as it should be.”  

By Ian MacRonald