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House votes to ease veterans' access to medical marijuana

By
Shawn Price
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Or.) led the drive Thursday to approve allowing Veterans Affairs doctors to discuss medical marijuana with their patients. The amendment to the annual VA spending bill was approved after two previous attempts. (UPI Photo/Kevin Dietsch)
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Or.) led the drive Thursday to approve allowing Veterans Affairs doctors to discuss medical marijuana with their patients. The amendment to the annual VA spending bill was approved after two previous attempts. (UPI Photo/Kevin Dietsch) | License Photo

WASHINGTON, May 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. House on Thursday voted to allow Veteran Affairs doctors to be able to discuss using medical marijuana with their patients.

Although the allowance will only occur in states where medical marijuana is already legal, it is the strongest indication yet that congress' view of marijuana is changing.

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The 233-189 vote was the first victory for the proposal on a VA spending bill by Earl Blumenauer, D-Or., who had failed to get it passed in previous attempts over the last two years. The first attempt ended in a solid defeat two years ago, but lost by only three votes last year.

Veterans currently have to get the recommendation from an outside doctor to deal with their post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, or depression, Blumenauer said

"We should not be limiting the treatment options available to our veterans," said Blumenauer. Oregon is one of 24 states, along with the District of Columbia, that have legalized medical marijuana.

"I think it is the right thing to do for our veterans, to be able to treat them equitably, to enable them to have access to the doctor who knows them the best, giving them better treatment and saving them money," Blumenauer said.

Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., said he "reluctantly" opposed the amendment.

"As a member of this House, I am a bit uncomfortable, however, in trying to dictate policy on marijuana without guidance from the Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health and other medical professionals," Dent said.

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