Introduction of the Veterans Equal Access Act

Floor Speech

Date: March 30, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, today Representative Mast and I introduced the Veterans Equal Access Act. This legislation would provide equal access to state-legal medical marijuana for veterans participating in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care. It ends the harmful VA prohibition on doctors and health care providers giving opinions or recommendations on, or completing forms for, state- legal medical marijuana programs.

U.S. cannabis laws are broken, including our laws that govern veterans' access to medical cannabis. Many veterans report using cannabis for medical purposes as a substitute for prescription drugs. The VA National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has acknowledged that veterans use cannabis to relieve symptoms of PTSD, and that in many states PTSD is a qualifying condition for enrollment in medical cannabis programs.

Most states with state-legal medical cannabis programs require some sort of recommendation or approval from a medical provider for patients to enroll in the program. However, VA policy prevents VA physicians and care providers from any participation, including helping with the required paperwork or forms.

This forces veterans to seek care outside of the VA system to receive medical cannabis recommendations, which can interrupt continuity of care, lead to mistakes or gaps in care, and require veterans to pay out of pocket for additional physician visits. VA physicians should not be denied the ability to offer a recommendation that they think may meet the needs of their patients. And veterans should not be forced outside the VA system to seek treatment that is legal in their state.

The Veterans Equal Access Act would allow VA doctors and healthcare providers to give their opinions or recommendations on medical cannabis and to complete forms in compliance with state-legal medical marijuana programs.

I look forward to working with my co-leads, Representative Brian Mast and Senators Jacky Rosen, and my colleagues in the House and Senate to enact this legislation and provide equal access to state-legal medical cannabis for our veterans participating in VA health care.