Dems unveil bill to let VA doctors prescribe medical marijuana

Two Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday introduced a bill to allow doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs to prescribe medical marijuana.

The legislation, from Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDemocrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' State probes of Google, Facebook to test century-old antitrust laws Trump's sinking polls embolden Democrats to play hardball MORE (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeMarijuana industry donations to lawmakers surge in 2019: analysis Lawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator Overnight Health Care: Planned Parenthood to leave federal family planning program absent court action | Democrats demand Trump withdraw rule on transgender health | Cummings, Sanders investigate three drug companies for 'obstructing' probe MORE (D-Calif.), would only apply to the 33 states that already allow medical marijuana, but would lift the federal ban in those states for the VA.

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“In 33 states, doctors and their patients have the option to use medical marijuana to manage pain—unless those doctors work for the VA and their patients are veterans,” Schatz said in a statement.

“This bill gives VA doctors in these states the option to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans, and it also promises to shed light on how medical marijuana can help with the nation’s opioid epidemic,” he added.

The bill would also direct the VA to study how medical marijuana could be used to treat chronic pain, with the hope that prescribing marijuana for pain could cut down on the need to prescribe opioids, which are at the center of an epidemic of abuse. Illinois, for example, has a pilot program to let people prescribed opioids try medical marijuana instead.

“The current federal prohibitions on cannabis are unnecessary, harmful, and counterproductive,” Lee said. “The federal government should never stand between our veterans and their medicine.”