Forward March: Historic House Vote Shows We're Close to Breaking Federal Barriers to Medical Marijuana

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May 9, 2014 - By Jessica Gelay

Last week, the House of Representatives considered an amendment to prohibit the Veterans Administration from spending money to prosecute clinicians for recommending medical marijuana to their veteran patients. This amendment that would have ended the gag order placed on VA medical system staff that prevents discussion of potential benefits of marijuana for their patients with post-traumatic stress, chronic pain, traumatic brain injury and other conditions and serious health issues.

Similar amendments to spending bills have been put forth many times over the last few years, but they were tied to bills funding the Drug Enforcement Administration and other related agencies and departments to prevent the Dept. of Justice from spending money on enforcement and prosecution against people operating in compliance with their state medical marijuana laws. Last week was the first time that the health of our veterans was at the center of the federal debate about medical marijuana.

While the amendment failed 195 to 222, it was a very close vote, with 47percent of votes cast in support of the amendment.  This represents an 7percent increase in support from the last time the House voted on medical marijuana. More than half of freshman lawmakers approved the measure, and 22 Republicans broke the party line and voted to support reinstating physicians’ First Amendment right to speak freely with their patients (a right upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court).

Bravo to the legislators who understand that marijuana is medicine and the Constitutional first amendment right to Freedom of Speech should trump politics, especially when our veterans are dying at the rate of nearly one suicide every hour.

Take a moment to see how your legislator voted and either thank them or let them know you want them to educate themselves and not turn their backs on our veterans. All veterans, in consultation with their doctors, deserve the Freedom to Choose the safest and most effective medicines for their debilitating conditions.

Americans for Safe Access created an easy way to contact your Congressperson about their vote on the Veterans Equal Access Amendment.

Jessica Gelay is a policy coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance.

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