Sen. Tim Kaine reintroducing bill to allow Dept. of VA to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans

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FILE – In this Aug. 15, 2019, file photo, marijuana grows at an indoor cannabis farm in Gardena, Calif. Utah’s first medical marijuana dispensary is set to open Monday, March 2, 2020, as the state begins a slow rollout of a program that will allow residents with certain health conditions to use the plant for medicinal purposes. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

WASHINGTON (WAVY) — Senator Tim Kaine is reintroducing a bill that would allow VA hospitals to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans.

The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act allows doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans in states that have established medical marijuana programs.

Virginia is among 36 states that already have established programs which allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to help patients manage pain, however the VAs are excluded from these programs.

Reintroducing the bill would expand program eligibility to VA hospitals. In addition to access, the bill would also create a temporary, five-year safe harbor protection for veterans who use medical marijuana.

Supporters of the bill say it would help the VA conduct research on how medical marijuana could help veterans better manage chronic pain and reduce opioid abuse.

“This bill helps ensure that veterans have access to the same medical options as other Americans, removing barriers to care for our heroes,” said Sen. Kaine.

“This would also be an opportunity to further explore the use of medical marijuana as a viable tool to help veterans manage pain and potentially reduce opioid abuse.”

The bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).

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