April 20, 2023

Wyden, Merkley, Colleagues Reintroduce Bill Allowing VA to Prescribe Medical Cannabis to Veterans

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley 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.

“Veterans in Oregon and nationwide are unfairly and unacceptably stuck in a legal gray zone when discussing medical cannabis with their doctor,” Wyden said. “Veterans deserve the opportunity to explore various treatments with their doctor without fear of prosecution or employment ramifications. The Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act would protect veterans who use medical cannabis while also directing the VA to research how medical cannabis could help veterans manage their health and well-being. 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.”

“Outdated laws should not arbitrarily preclude VA doctors from prescribing the treatment that’s best for veterans,” said Merkley.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.

The legislation was led by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii. Alongside Wyden and Merkley, the bill was joined by U.S. Senators Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Alex Padilla, D-Calif., and Tim Kaine, D-Va.

The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act is supported by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), AMVETS, VoteVets, Minority Veterans of America, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Veterans Cannabis Project, NORML, National Cannabis Roundtable, U.S. Pain Foundation, Drug Policy Alliance, Veteran’s Initiative 22, National Cannabis Industry Association, Council for Federal Cannabis Regulation, and Americans for Safe Access.