U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., scored a win this week as he looksto expand medical marijuana options for veterans.
Back in April 2019, Steube teamed up with U.S. Rep. Gilbert Cisneros, D-Calif., to bring out the “Veterans Cannabis Use for Safe Healing Act” which will “prohibit the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from denying a veteran his or her benefits due to the use of medical marijuana in states where the substance is legal.”
“As a veteran, I’m committed to ensuring that veterans receive the care they deserve, and I know that sometimes that care can include medical marijuana,” said Steube when he brought out the bill. “Receiving the appropriate treatment to address your health care needs—using products that are legal in the state in which you live—should not preclude you from your Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.”
Steube’s office laid out what the bill will do.
“The bill will codify Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Directive 1315, Access to VHA Clinical Programs for Veterans Participating in State-Approved Marijuana Programs, which currently protects veterans from being denied benefits based on participation in state-approved medical marijuana programs. This bill will only apply to veterans living and receiving care in states that have approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes,” the congressman’s office noted.
“It’s important that we respect states’ rights as outlined in the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution. While it is the current policy of the VA to not deny benefits to veterans based on participation in these state-based medical marijuana programs, this bill will ensure that no future policy or administration change could put these veterans at risk of losing their benefits when they are in compliance with state law,” said Steube. “It also allows VA staff to help veterans fill out the forms necessary to enroll in a state-approved program instead of having to rely on a private physician. This makes things easier for veterans who are in desperate need of these medical options.”
Steube, a former Army JAG Officer who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, sits on the U.S House Veterans Affairs Committee where, this week, he included his bill into U.S. Rep. Luis Correa’s, D-Calif., “VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act.” The committee cleared the amended bill and sent it to the House floor.
The Florida congressman explained how he did that on Thursday.
“Through procedural action in today’s House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing, I was able to get an important proposal passed that will ensure veterans who are participating in state-approved medical marijuana programs are not denied their VA benefits,” said Steube. “I think what happened today was an excellent example of bipartisanship and working together to serve America’s veterans. Though my bill did not receive a vote in this committee, Republicans and Democrats worked together to pass this amendment to ensure this important proposal is enacted. At the end of the day, it does not matter whose name is on the bill, as long as we are creating good policy that gets our veterans the care they deserve.”
“Our veterans deserve wholistic care, and that means providing them with every possible effective treatment, including the use of medical marijuana,” said Cisneros on Thursday. “If a state has a medical marijuana program and their doctor believes it’s the best form of treatment, our veterans should have access. Congress needs to do more to help our courageous veterans get the treatment they need. As a Navy veteran, I’m proud to work with Congressman Steube on this amendment to increase veteran access to medical marijuana and be a cosponsor of the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act and support VA medical marijuana and veterans research.”
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.