Merkley, Wyden, & colleagues reintroduce bill to prescribe medical cannabis to veterans

Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden, and Senate colleagues this week reintroduced legislation that would allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to prescribe medical cannabis to veterans in Oregon and other states and territories where there are established medical cannabis programs.

‘Outdated laws should not arbitrarily preclude VA doctors from prescribing the treatment that’s best for veterans,’ said Jeff Merkley. ‘Our veterans have given too much to be met with roadblocks to the care they need.’

Veterans are twice as likely to die from opioid overdosing as non-veterans, and though the VA has issued guidance allowing doctors to discuss medical cannabis with veterans in states where it is legal, doctors cannot prescribe it and it is unclear if veterans will be protected from federal prosecution or employment ramifications if they use it.

The Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act would create a temporary, five-year safe harbor protection for veterans who use medical cannabis, and directs the VA to research how medical cannabis could help veterans better manage chronic pain and reduce opioid abuse.

‘Veterans in Oregon and nationwide are unfairly and unacceptably stuck in a legal gray zone when discussing medical cannabis with their doctor,’ Ron Wyden said. ‘Veterans deserve the opportunity to explore various treatments with their doctor without fear of prosecution or employment ramifications. I’ll fight tooth and nail to get this bill over the finish line and help get veterans the care they deserve and earned with their service.’

The legislation was led by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, (D-HI). Alongside Wyden and Merkley, the bill was joined by U.S. Senators Mark Kelly, (D-AZ), Cory Booker, (D-NJ), Jacky Rosen, (D-NV), Bernie Sanders, (I-VT), Alex Padilla, (D-CS), and Tim Kaine, (D-VA).

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