New bill aims to open discussions about medical marijuana at VA

New bill aims to open discussions about medical marijuana at VA

BOSTON — Veterans might find an easier path to using medical marijuana under a new bill.

Two representatives, including Seth Moulton (D-MA), have proposed new legislation that would change how the Veterans Affairs Medical Centers approach medical marijuana.

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According to a release about the legislation, the law is aimed at encouraging veterans to be open with their medical providers about cannabis use for their health.

"As more veterans turn to medicinal cannabis to more effectively treat their various service- and non-service related injuries, the relationship with their healthcare providers is becoming ever more important," the release states. "The VA has a policy protecting a veteran’s benefits if they discuss their medicinal cannabis use with their health care provider; however, not all healthcare providers respond in a standard way and veterans still fear and experience repercussions of some kind."

The package contains three pieces of legislation: one that would solidify a standard VA policy for addressing medical marijuana use and allowing doctors and patients to discuss it; one that would conduct a national survey of all veterans to find out how patients are using medical marijuana; and one would incorporate medical marijuana education into the VA's education programs to help primary health providers learn about its use.

According to the American Legion, 22 percent of veterans say they use cannabis to self-medicate various conditions. Its prevalence, and the trend of states legalizing adult-use cannabis, could force a government overhaul of policies regarding the still-federally-illegal drug.

"Our veterans are seeking alternative options to opioids and we should be supporting their desires not to be addicted to painkillers,” Said Moulton. “Let’s not kid ourselves, people are using marijuana - including our veterans. We have an obligation to regulate it and make it as safe as possible."

The legislation has been endorsed by the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Cannabis Industry Reform Association and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Cannabis is has been legalized for medical use by 32 states and has been legalized for recreational use in 10 states -- including Massachusetts -- as of this year's election.