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Congressional Committee Clears Marijuana And Psychedelics Amendments To Defense Bill For Floor Votes, While Rejecting Another Cannabis Proposal



A powerful House committee has approved amendments to a large-scale spending bill that would authorize U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors to issue medical marijuana recommendations to military veterans and support psychedelics research and access. The panel rejected another proposal to block cannabis testing for federal job applicants in states that have enacted legalization, however.

The House Rules Committee on Monday cleared the select drug policy reform amendments for floor votes during a hearing on the underlying Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies (MilConVA) appropriations legislation.

One of the accepted proposals from Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Dave Joyce (R-OH)—who together are the co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus—would allow veterans to access state medical marijuana programs and eliminate a VA directive barring the department’s doctors from issuing cannabis recommendations.

SEC. 419. None of the funds appropriated or other wise made available to the Department of Veterans Affairs in this Act may be used to enforce Veterans Health Directive 1315 as it relates to—

(1) the policy stating that ‘‘VHA providers are prohibited from completing forms or registering Veterans for participation in a State-approved marijuana program’’;

(2) the directive for the ‘‘Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Operations and Management’’ to ensure that ‘‘medical facility Directors are aware that it is VHA policy for providers to assess Veteran use of marijuana but providers are prohibited from recommending, making referrals to or completing paperwork for Veteran participation in State marijuana programs’’; and

(3) the directive for the ‘‘VA Medical Facility Director’’ to ensure that ‘‘VA facility staff are aware of the following’’ ‘‘[t]he prohibition on recommending, making referrals to or completing forms and registering Veterans for participation in State approved marijuana programs’’.

The amendment, which is also being cosponsored by Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-TX), is based on a standalone bill, the Veterans Equal Access Act, that Blumenauer has championed across multiple sessions. It’s advanced several times in committee and on the floor but has yet to be enacted into law.

Both the House and Senate included provisions in their respective MilConVA measures last year that would permit VA doctors to make the medical cannabis recommendations, but they were not included in the final package for the 2024 version that was signed into law in March.

Another MilConVA amendment from Reps. Jack Bergman (R-MI), Lou Correa (D-CA), Derrick Van Orden (R-WI), Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), David Valadao (R-CA), Morgan Luttrell (R-TX), John Moolenaar (R-MI) and James Moylan (R-GU) was approved for floor consideration that would encourage VA to support research into the benefits of psychedelics in treating medical conditions commonly affecting military veterans.

Increases and decreases the Medical and Prosthetic Research account at the Department of Veterans Affairs to express support for recently announced VA-funded research into psychedelic-assisted therapies to treat PTSD and depression, and to encourage VA to prioritize the proactive training of therapists to administer these treatments.

The Rules Committee also accepted separate amendment from the most of the same lawmakers that urges VA to report to Congress on possible incorporation of MDMA-assisted therapy into the department’s formulary following federal approval of the drug.

Increases and decreases the Medical Services account at the Department of Veterans Affairs to urge VA to report to Congress no later than 180 days following approval of midomafetamine-assisted treatments to treat PTSD under Section 505 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act on possible incorporation of treatments in the formulary of the Department and the justification for such determination.

“Research over the past decade has demonstrated clear positive results in psychedelic-assisted therapies treating previously untreatable post-traumatic stress disorder.” Bergman told the committee on Monday. “We need more appropriately trained therapists for the new therapies. If the VA doesn’t look ahead and begin the necessary steps to train mental health professionals now, it will take years for psychedelic-assisted therapies to actually become available for our fellow veterans after FDA approval.”

“Those who have risked their lives in defense of our country deserve happy and fulfilling lives,” he said. “And we have the responsibility to ensure that VA is ready to assist them in this endeavor with that.”

Correa told the panel that “some of the members of Congress here have told me they’ve undertaken this treatment.”

The fellow lawmakers, some of whom are military veterans, Correa said, “swear that if it wasn’t for this, God knows where they would be.”

“All we want is for the VA to move fast,” he said. “And do the testing and make sure that they have these therapies ready to take care of our warriors.”

Despite clearing the two psychedelics amendments and the medical cannabis recommendation proposal for floor consideration, GOP leadership rejected a separate amendment to the appropriations bill, sponsored by Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA), that would block VA from subjecting job applicants to marijuana screenings as a condition of their employment if they live in a legal state.

Garcia similarly pursued the reform as amendments to multiple spending bills last session, but none were made in order for floor consideration.

The Rules Committee took a similar approach to drug policy reform amendments that were filed as part of the previous MilConVA spending measure, approving proposals on veterans medical cannabis access and psychedelics research but denying other Democratic-led marijuana measures.

Meanwhile, Republican members of Congress are seeking to eliminate a provision of a separate defense bill that would block military branches from testing recruits for marijuana as a condition of enlistment, while other members push for a variety of new drug policy amendments that would prevent security clearance denials based on past cannabis use, expand expungement eligibility and facilitate the rescheduling of certain psychedelics, among other reforms.

The proposals are being pursued as part of the 2025 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which cleared the House Armed Services Committee last month and must now also go before the Rules Committee before potentially reaching the floor.

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Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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