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Senate Approves Medical Marijuana For Military Veterans And Advances Hemp Legalization

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U.S. military veterans would be allowed to receive recommendations for medical marijuana from government doctors under legislation approved by the Senate on Monday.

The provision, part of large-scale legislation to fund parts of the federal government including the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) through Fiscal Year 2019, would also protect veterans from losing their government benefits as a result of cannabis use that is legal under state law.

The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 86 to 5.

The House and Senate have previously adopted versions of the cannabis recommendation rider, but it has never been enacted into law. The House Rules Committee blocked a floor vote on adding the marijuana language to that chamber’s version of the VA funding bill earlier this year.

But the cannabis provision made it to the Senate floor because that body’s Appropriations Committee adopted it on a voice vote earlier this month.

Now, a bicameral conference committee will work behind closed doors to reconcile each chambers’ bill into final legislation to be sent to President Trump. It is not yet clear whether the marijuana rider will survive.

Separately on Monday, the Senate took a procedural vote to advance consideration of the Farm Bill, which includes provisions to legalize hemp.

Read the full text of the veterans cannabis amendment as approved by the U.S. Senate:

SEC. 249. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available to the Department of Veterans Affairs in this Act may be used in a manner that would—

(1) interfere with the ability of a veteran to participate in a medicinal marijuana program approved by a State;

(2) deny any services from the Department to a veteran who is participating in such a program; or

(3) limit or interfere with the ability of a health care provider of the Department to make appropriate recommendations, fill out forms, or take steps to comply with such a program.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

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