Legislators failed by just three votes 213-210, to add an amendment, which would have prevented the Department of Veterans Affairs from prohibiting the doctors at Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals about medical marijuana discussion with veterans as an alternative treatment, to the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.

Democrat Representative Earl Blumenauer's Equal Access Amendment will incorporate the veterans' rights to access medical marijuana for therapeutic uses. If approved, it will also encourage all legislative bodies to endorse veterans' rights to use medical marijuana therapeutically and responsibly and to cease all prohibitions related with such use.

Democratic Reps Ruben Gallego of Arizona, Sam Farr and Barbara Lee of California, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, and Dina Titus of Nevada, along with Republican Reps. Dana Rohrabacher of California, Tom Reed of New York and Joe Heck of Nevada, all offered the measure.

As the lead author, Blumenauer also submitted it last year as an amendment to the VA appropriations bill but failed with a vote of 195-222. This year's stronger showing is a positive sign that the legislator's group is near in passing this amendment that could possibly treat soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other medical conditions according to Blumenauer.

Approximately 30 percent of military veterans who fought in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars suffer from PTSD and depressive disorder, based on a 2012 VA report. Many scientists have suggested that marijuana may assist with handling PTSD by aiding to train the part of the brain that is "critical for fear and anxiety modulation."

As of the moment, 23 states have legalized cannabis for medical uses and 13 other states have legalized marijuana extracts for specialized medical purposes. The plant remains illegal under federal law. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved or recognized the marijuana plant as medicinal drug. However, scientific report of the chemicals in cannabis, called cannabinoids, has resulted to two FDA-approved medicines that are made up of cannabinoid chemicals in pill form. Marijuana has been shown to relieve symptoms of different kinds of severe medical conditions including glaucoma, cancer, and AIDS, and is often an effective alternative to synthetic painkillers.

Continued investigation on marijuana may develop more medicines. However, the ban on cannabis has slowed down the study within the United States to discover the best and most effective uses for cannabis as a medicine, making campaigns to improve the medical marijuana laws very challenging.

As the medical use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law, patients in the remaining states are without any legal access at all. Even in states where medical marijuana laws exist, patients and providers are vulnerable to arrest and interference from federal law enforcement.

Photo: David Trawin | Flickr

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