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House committee advances bill to end federal marijuana ban, allow VA to prescribe cannabis to vets

Marijuana plant (Wikimedia/Jennifer Martin)
November 22, 2019

The House Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday to approve legislation that would effectively end federal prohibition on marijuana and allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to prescribe cannabis to patients.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019 passed the committee with bipartisan support in a 24-10 vote and removes marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, Forbes reported. Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Tom McClintock (R-CA) also voted in favor of the bill, which will now advance to the House floor for a full vote.

The bill, introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), allows VA physicians to prescribe medical cannabis to patients, so long as they abide by state-specific marijuana laws.

If passed, it would also order the creation of a “Cannabis Justice Office” which would focus on reinvesting resources into communities most affected by prohibition, as well as expunge certain marijuana-related convictions.

There have been a number of veteran-related controversies regarding marijuana where it is legal in some states. Marijuana is currently a Schedule I drug classification, alongside heroin.

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One 35-year old disabled veteran, who spoke to the Boston Globe on the condition of anonymity, said he was denied a VA mortgage benefit because he worked in a Massachusetts cannabis store, where the drug is legal. The veteran said he lost out on the low-rate, no money down mortgage which the Department of Veterans Affairs provides to veterans after they denied his loan application.

“I was actually accomplishing a lifelong goal of mine, and then to have it pulled right out from under you at the 11th hour … I was blown away,” he told the Globe. “It was very frustrating and demoralizing.”

Other state legislators have proposed legislation that would let veterans use the drug for medicinal purposes. Two state legislators in Florida proposed giving medical marijuana cards to veterans for free, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

Federal rules on gun ownership have also prohibited medicinal marijuana cardholders from buying and owning firearms.

Earlier this year, Rep. Alexander Mooney (R-WV) introduced the “Second Amendment Protection Act.” The legislation would provide an exemption for medical marijuana users from federal firearm prohibition laws. Maryland, Oklahoma and Colorado have also proposed state laws to protect marijuana users’ Second Amendment rights.

It is legal in 10 states for adults to possess and use recreational marijuana and 33 states and legalized medicinal marijuana, but because the federal government classifies it as a Schedule I drug, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives considers the possession of firearms by individuals who use marijuana a criminal offense.