Veterans Medical Marijuana Amendment Fails in House

An amendment to a 2016 spending bill that would have allowed doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs to discuss medical marijuana with veterans has been defeated in the U.S. House of Representatives. With a vote of 213-210, it was excruciatingly close to passing; and when Republicans closed the vote, the chamber was filled with boos and jeers from Democrats.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the amendment’s sponsor, debated passionately on the House floor, arguing that veterans should not be treated differently from average citizens. “The medical marijuana train has left the station,” Blumenauer told his colleagues. “A million Americans have a legal right to use medical marijuana and do so. You want to treat veterans differently.”

For such a supposedly patriotic party, you would think Republicans would be interested in helping veterans, but they do not see it that way.

Opponents of the amendment claimed that the measure would allow federal employees to break the law and that it made little sense allowing VA doctors to recommend a schedule I drug. “There just isn’t good science behind what it works for and what it doesn’t,” Rep. Andy Harris told the Associated Press.

That is some tall talk coming from someone who still thinks that the jury is out on climate change. It makes you wonder what kind of burden of proof Harris requires to believe in something, or maybe political science is the only science Harris can trust.

Obviously, the failure of Blumenauer’s amendment is a huge disappointment not only for the industry, but also veterans. A 2012 VA report found that approximately 30 percent of veterans that served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, meaning thousands will suffer due to ignorance and partisan politics.

Despite such a disappointing result, Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance believes that Blumenauer’s amendment did relatively well, all things considered. Last year, the same amendment was introduced and promptly defeated by a vote of 222-195, which is a 15 vote increase.

“The fact that this year’s amendment picked up 15 votes in just one year means support for medical marijuana is increasingly rapidly in Congress,” said Piper in a Huffington Post Op-Ed. “It also means we will most likely go on to win other amendments this year that are more focused on states’ rights.”

Piper is not too far off point in his assumption that the states’ rights argument will fare much better in Congress than other arguments.

It is hard to pass marijuana legislation that directly affects the government on a federal level. However, hitting conservative lawmakers in an area like states’ rights, where they can’t easily back down, is one way to make them vote with their “convictions.”

Legislatively speaking, states’ rights are where the rhetorical rubber meets the road and the marijuana industry is about to hit the highway. We may not have gotten what we wanted, but do not expect that same scenario to play out the rest of the year.

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