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Lawmakers file bills to legalize medical marijuana for military veterans

Marine Corp. veteran Alex Griffith of Cincinnati, Ohio, right, watches as his prescription is bagged on the first day of patient sales of Ohio's Medical Marijuana program at Cresco Labs CY+ dispensary in Winterville, Ohio, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
Marine Corp. veteran Alex Griffith of Cincinnati, Ohio, right, watches as his prescription is bagged on the first day of patient sales of Ohio's Medical Marijuana program in January.

Marijuana Moment is a wire service assembled by Tom Angell, a marijuana legalization activist and journalist covering marijuana reform nationwide. The views expressed by Angell or Marijuana Moment are neither endorsed by the Globe nor do they reflect the Globe’s views on any subject area.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill filed companion bills on Tuesday in the House and Senate to make it legal under federal law for military veterans to “use, possess, or transport medical marijuana” in accordance with state policies.

The legislation, sponsored by Senator Brian Schatz and Representative Barbara Lee, is called The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act.

Aside from shielding veterans who use medical cannabis under local laws from being harassed by federal officials, the proposal makes clear that Department of Veterans Affairs doctors can issue medical marijuana recommendations to their patients.

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If the legislation is enacted, the VA would also be required to study “the effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain” and “the relationship between treatment programs involving medical marijuana that are approved by States, the access of veterans to such programs, and a reduction in opioid abuse among veterans.”

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The proposal sets aside $15 million to support such research.

The new bills are virtually identical to legislation that Schatz and then-Senator Bill Nelson introduced last year, except that it adds the protections for veterans covered under medical cannabis policies of Indian tribes, in addition to those in states.

Schatz’s Senate bill is cosponsored by Senator Tim Kaine, whereas Lee’s House version has no initial cosponsors.

“States with medical cannabis laws have a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with States without medical cannabis laws,” says the findings section at the start of the legislation. “Marijuana and its compounds show promise for treating a wide-range of diseases and disorders, including pain management. Medical marijuana in States where it is legal may serve as a less harmful alternative to opioids in treating veterans.”

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The provisions protecting for doctors and veteran patients would sunset after five years, subject to a renewal by subsequent legislation.

See the full text of the new veterans medical marijuana bill below:

Read this story on Marijuana Moment.