New bill would push VA to conduct more research into medical marijuana

WASHINGTON — New legislation released Tuesday would dump the Department of Veterans Affairs’ excuse for not better researching the possible benefits of cannabis for suffering veterans, a move that could have wide-ranging ramifications for the nationwide legalization of medical marijuana.

The bill — dubbed the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 — has the support of the top Republican and Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and other key lawmakers. It would not only clarify that VA has the authority to research cannabis, but require regular reports from department leaders on how seriously they are taking that responsibility.

“That is why I am so proud to introduce this legislation. Simply put, there is no department or organization better suited to conduct this critically important research than VA, and there will never be a better time to act.”

For months, Walz and veterans advocates have been pushing Veterans Affairs officials to more aggressively explore research into marijuana’s possible benefits for patients with a host of ailments, as a possible alternative to addictive opioids.

But department leaders have insisted that federal law restricts their ability to conduct most medical marijuana testing, and have refused those requests for expansion.

That has frustrated lawmakers like Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif., who sponsored the new legislation.

“It’s time the VA did a formal study,” he said. “Rather than risk becoming dependent on opioids, these veterans find relief in medical cannabis. … I want to bring these brave men and women the relief they deserve. This legislation will finally allow the VA to perform research on medical cannabis.”

Medical marijuana is legal in 29

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