The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted 18-12 Thursday to approve an amendment that would allow Department of Veterans Affairs physicians to recommend medical marijuana to veterans.
Republican Sen. Steve Daines and Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley forwarded the amendment for inclusion in the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. Specifically, if passed by Congress, the bipartisan amendment would disallow the VA from spending funds to enforce a prohibition against physicians filling out medical marijuana recommendation forms in states where the drug is legal.
“Doctors should never be prohibited from helping their patients obtain the best possible medical treatment,” Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “Many veterans are finding that medical marijuana is the most effective treatment for PTSD and other service-related medical conditions. Finally, Congress is working to remove barriers to accessing it rather than building them.”
All 14 Democrats on the panel, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, voted in support of the amendment, along with four Republicans. One of the Republicans in opposition, Sen. Mark Kirk, said that there’s no shortage of veterans already intoxicated. For Kirk, passing the amendment would mean forcing a 60s culture on veterans.
Last month, the House narrowly rejected an identical provision by a vote of 213-210 on April 30. (RELATED: House Says No To Medical Marijuana For Vets)
The House said no to medical marijuana for vets. The Senate panel said yes. If the spending bill passes the full Senate after consideration, the two separate versions of the legislation will have to be reconciled.
“While we won five votes in a row on the House floor last year, this is the first time we’ve ever won a vote on a positive marijuana reform measure in the Senate,” Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “And with polls showing that a growing majority of voters supports ending prohibition, it’s safe to say it won’t be the last. Elected officials are finally starting to wake up to the fact that endorsing marijuana reform is good politics instead of the dangerous third-rail they’ve long viewed it as, and that means a lot more victories are on the way soon.”