The American Legion has endorsed a resolution calling for Veterans Affairs physicians to be allowed to recommend medical marijuana to their patients as a treatment option in states where legal.
The Legion is the largest veterans group in the United States consisting of two million members. The day prior to the resolution last week President Donald Trump called the organization “very powerful” in a speech at its national convention in Reno, Nevada. Despite this, the roadblocks faced by veterans on pushing medical cannabis progress in the halls of Congress seem like many to some and still insurmountable to others.
One combat veteran with decades of cannabis policy and industry experience (who did not wish to be identified) said the people who have pushed this issue for years are worn out from the constant hope for progress being crushed in the midnight hours
“It’s just lip service and has no real bite sadly, we keep getting f*cked over by Republicans when we go to committee and further, they outright block it willfully,” he said. “They ignore us when we go against what the government wants to do. They screw us over, sadly today was once again toothless great headlines, however… People need to call their representatives to get that type of action and we have, only to see it pulled in the 11th hour of the night going nowhere, rinse, lather, repeat.”
Part of this vet’s frustrations centered around his belief that the announcement is just a statement from the Legion with no real backbone. That’s not the case according to Joe Plenzler, media relations director at Legion headquarters in D.C.
“We are actively engaged with the House and Senate on this important issue,” Plenzer said in an email.
With the Legion’s announcement, longtime activists pushing Congress on the cannabis issue as a whole are thrilled to have a fantastic new talking point as they push forward, but the broken heart remembers. While we see pot progress from sea to shining sea, dealing with improving access for veterans is definitely somewhere the right has drawn a line in the sand with many dead efforts to show for it.
In a release on the resolution, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano noted the language is similar to pending legislation in Congress, H.R. 1820: The Veterans Equal Access Act. Also, In July, members of the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 24-7 to include similar language as an amendment to the 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies appropriations bill. Armentano also highlighted identical language in the House was blocked from consideration by House Rules Chairman, Texas Republican Pete Sessions.
“Majorities of the House and Senate took action last year to expand access,” Armentano said. “It was the actions of a small cadre of Republican leaders who stood in the way of reform by stripping the language away during conference committee. It remains to be seen whether the minority will try once again to stamp out the will of the majority when it comes to providing relief to America’s veterans.”
Advocates are a bit hazy on what exactly the Legion’s effort will mean, especially in trying to keep alive the language Congress is already set to review. Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project wasn’t sure how much sway the Legion carries over the congressional committee (despite being the organization that originally pushed for a federal agency supporting veterans in 1921) but did believe it will certainly be very useful when talking to VA officials “who could let their doctors talk to their patients about medical marijuana by agency policy, or in the halls of Congress pushing legislation to force them to allow it.”
Part of reading the effect on Congress of the Legion effort obviously is having a legislative body with enough stability to get a read for its next actions. Drug Policy Alliance Deputy Director Michael Collins said it’s, “unclear how much it will move Congress (these guys can’t name a post office these days), but it certainly puts pressure on Trump, Sessions, etc. regarding the possibility of a crackdown and will make them think twice.”