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House Passes Veterans-Focused Marijuana And Psychedelics Amendments



The U.S. House of Representatives 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.

One day after the Rules Committee cleared the proposals for floor consideration, the full chamber adopted them as part of appropriations legislation covering Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies (MilConVA) in a series of votes on Tuesday.

The cannabis measure passed in a vote of 290-116, while the two psychedelics proposals were adopted on voice votes.

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’’.

“My proposed amendment, I believe, is common sense. It allows doctors in the VA—those that deal with veterans—to give advice to their veteran patients,” Mast said on the floor. “That seems simple enough, but under the status quo, VA doctors are limited in essential treatment options that they can offer to their patients and treatments that patients that are not veterans can readily assess in many states.”

“Beyond the veteran population, the nation is turning the page on how we think about cannabis. It’s become a key part of the medical system in more than 30 states. It offers law-abiding Americans a low-cost and safe option,” he said. “Do not keep those who’ve fought for our country from accessing what’s proven to be a critical tool for pain management. It is time for change. Veterans deserve to have access to every possible tool, and the best medical options available and the best possible medical advice by their doctors.”

No members took the opportunity to speak in opposition to the amendment—not even Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), the top Democrat on the relevant appropriations subcommittee who has historically spoken out against the reform.

Instead, Blumenauer used time allotted to the opposition to express support for the amendment he’s cosponsoring.

“It’s unfortunate that the Department of Veterans Affairs is trapped in time, not giving veterans the full benefits of medical cannabis,” the congressman said, noting that even the Justice Department has since moved to reschedule marijuana under federal law, recognizing its medical utility.

Lee also spoke in favor of the amendment, stating that “VA physicians should not be tied when it comes to advising around medical treatments that are scientifically proven to be less harmful and less addictive.”

In a press release sent after the vote, Joyce said he is “proud” to push for the “commonsense effort to help our country’s veterans access medical treatment.”

“As the son of a World War II veteran who was wounded on the battlefield, I’ve seen firsthand the many challenges our nation’s heroes face when they return home,” he said. “We should all be resolved to help expand access to treatments for the medical challenges—both mental and physical—our nation’s veterans experience. I am glad to see this amendment pass the House to help eliminate barriers for alternative treatments and provide our veterans with the care they need to overcome the wounds of war.”

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 on the floor 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.

“As we saw last year, demonstrating clear congressional approval for these innovative efforts can motivate real action within the federal bureaucracy,” Bergman said on the floor ahead of the vote. “We owe it to our veterans to do everything we can in support of these breakthrough therapies.”

Correa said that “we’ve seen our nation’s veterans continue to needlessly suffer suicides, mental health, opioid overdoses—and it’s crucial that the VA do everything in its power to ensure that they have safe and scientifically sound and potentially life-saving therapies as soon as they are available and approved in the United States.”

The House 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.

“Psychedelic-assisted therapies have the potential to be the first genuine advancement in the treatment of veterans’ mental health in decades,” Bergman said. “It is essential that the VA continues their efforts to research these compounds and do everything they can to ensure that they have trained therapists and those trained therapists are ready to meet the need and provide these new breakthrough treatments once they receive FDA approval.”

Meanwhile the Rules Committee on Monday 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.

Separately, another key GOP House committee has unveiled another large-scale spending bill that omits a longstanding rider blocking Washington, D.C. from legalizing recreational marijuana sales and separately adds new protections for banks that work with state-legal cannabis businesses.

New Hampshire House Lawmakers Offer Senators A Marijuana Legalization Compromise At Conference Committee Meeting

Image element courtesy of Kristie Gianopulos.

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