The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 18-2 on Thursday approving an amendment to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill that will allow doctors in the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend the use of medical marijuana to veteran patients.
According to the Washington Post, VA doctors have said that they would like to recommend marijuana for treatment but are unable to do so, as they are currently prohibited from discussing marijuana as a treatment option with their patients. The amendment, which was sponsored by Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), would keep funds from being used to enforce that ban.
“They can’t discuss all the options available to them that they could discuss if they literally walked next door to a non-VA facility,” Daines said. “I don’t believe we should discriminate against veterans just because they are in the care of the VA.”
Veterans across the United States have been using marijuana to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and calling for PTSD to be included as a qualifying condition to obtain medical marijuana.
The VA estimated in 2009 that PTSD affects nearly 31 percent of Vietnam veterans; as many as 10 percent of Gulf War veterans; 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan; and 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans. Some research has pointed favorably toward marijuana being capable of providing relief for PTSD.
“The Veterans Administration will prescribe a lot of different drugs – antidepressants, sometimes opiates. This combination of a toxic cocktail of drugs that are given to veterans have been shown to increase suicide,” U.S. Marine Corps veteran Talyn Lang told Montana news station KRTV. Lang, who uses marijuana to treat his PTSD and another ailment, believes that marijuana is a safer alternative to other drugs.