From his perch on the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, freshman U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., is looking to expand medical marijuana options for veterans.
Last week, 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, will have the chance to advocate for his bill when it heads to the House Veterans Affairs Committee. So far, there is no counterpart over in the U.S. Senate.
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.