With medical cannabis programs in 29 states and more being voted upon this fall, many veterans would like to explore cannabis to treat their medical issues. These programs require a doctor's recommendation, which you would think would be easy for veterans to obtain through the Department of Veterans Affairs medical system.
There is a problem with that, best summed up by a press release from Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer's office:
"Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) specifically prohibits its medical providers from completing forms allowing a qualified veteran to participate in a state medical marijuana program. This forces veterans out of the VA system to seek a simple recommendation for treatment for eligible conditions under state laws.""With all due respect to those with mental health issues, that's insane," you might say, and I would agree. So did Rep. Blumenauer, who authored the Veterans Equal Access amendment, which "ensures that no funds made available to the VA can be used to implement this prohibition, which would, in effect, strike it down."
So this isn't a new expenditure; the Veterans Equal Access Act would simply end the senseless prohibition of doctors being able to sign a form so veterans can partake of their state's existing, legalized medical cannabis program.
Rep. Blumenauer, who is founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, was not a lone voice calling out in the wilderness. He reached across the aisle and found co-sponsors for his bipartisan amendment with Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Matthew Gaetz (R-FL), Dina Titus (D-NV), Walter Jones (R-NC), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Lou Correa (D-CA), Tom Reed (R-NY), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Donald Young (R-AK), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Mark Sanford (R-SC).
"Yay for them!" you might shout triumphantly, startling those sitting next to you at the café. "I feel confident this story is going to have a happy ending, based in both compassion and common sense for our veterans!"
Yeah... about that.
The Republican-led House Rules Committee blocked Blumenauer from offering the amendment when the House considers the FY 2019 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill later this week. The Rules Committee also blocked an amendment offered by Blumenauer that would ensure veterans have continued access to health benefits offered by the VA when they use cannabis in compliance with state law.
This committee is led by Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, and in addition to his aforementioned handiwork, he also blocked an amendment to prevent the VA from firing veteran employees who legally consume medical marijuana, as Merry Jane reports: "The fourth of these amendments, unrelated to veterans, would have prevented the US Bureau of Reclamation form enforcing laws denying water rights to state-legal hemp or marijuana cultivators."
"Sounds like Blumenauer got blocked by cocks," you interject, and now people are just avoiding your table. "Maybe next year it will pass?"
If history is any guide, it's not looking great, friend. According to Blumenauer's press release, "Last year, the amendment was blocked by Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions. In 2016, the amendment passed on the House floor by 233-189, but was ultimately stripped out of the final legislation that became law."
"Hey, wait. Isn't Pete Sessions that creepy guy who got videotaped trying to steal a box of penis enlargers while drunk on Zima?" you ask, and while the answer is "no," to be 100 percent honest, I have no proof that it isn't.
The Pete Sessions that I'm certain about is a Republican from Texas (say whaaa?), and Li'l Petey has been busy this week seeking to inflict suffering and pain upon those which with whom he disagrees. In addition to his aforementioned handiwork, as Merry Jane writes, "Rep. Sessions also shut down an amendment that would have prevented the VA from stripping a veteran's benefits away as punishment for medical cannabis use. The fourth of these amendments, unrelated to veterans, would have prevented the US Bureau of Reclamation form enforcing laws denying water rights to state-legal hemp or marijuana cultivators."
That piece recounts what a pathetic track record Sessions has with matters such as reading comprehension, critical thinking skills, and telling the truth. When he attended the US Department of Health and Human Services Region VI Opioid Summit at UT Southwestern recently, he really outdid himself. These statements are taken from an article in the Forth-Worth Star Telegram, which Sessions made while he was this summit:
"If addiction is the problem and we have marketers of addiction that include marijuana—because all you have to do is go to any of the stores in Colorado and they can give you high to low to medium to chocolate—we ought to call for it what it is. If it were nicotine, it would have been outlawed; well, it would have been handled differently. But this is a political issue."(None of this makes any sense. "Chocolate" is not a unit of measure. And the nicotine thing was you owning yourself, Pete. Also, it's not a political issue. You suck at this.)
"Avoiding death is important, hear me say that, but learning what the facts and factors are, who is a candidate for this, how do we teach them, what does DNA matter to a 14-year-old, where do they start? If it’s marijuana, we ought to stand up and be brave in the medical community to say this political direction is not right."(What are you trying to say here, sir? Literally, what are you saying? Are you having a stroke? Do you smell toast?)
"A dear friend of mine, David Siegel, a wealthy man, one of the wealthiest men in America, had an 18-year-old daughter who was in treatment, I believe for marijuana and maybe cocaine... Within three weeks after being out she was dead. She came back and did what she had been doing after being off it."
As the Star Telegram explains, "she" was "Victoria Siegel, the daughter of the stars of the Queen of Versailles documentary, and had reportedly struggled with an addiction to an opioid used to control her seizures. The report by the Orange County (Fla.) Medical Examiner’s Office determined her death was caused by an accidental overdose of methadone and sertraline, both prescription medications." Exploit senseless tragedies to support your utterly incorrect and ill informed conclusions much, Peter?
Rep. Blumenauer released this statement: “For the second year, Pete Sessions has shown that he does not care about the health and well-being of our veterans—who are speaking out across the country. All they want is fair and equal treatment, and the ability to consult with their own physician on all treatment options. By blocking this vote, Chairman Sessions has turned his back on our wounded warriors, commonsense, and the will of the American people. He should be ashamed.”
"Ashamed" isn't necessarily a term Peter Peter Bullshit Feeder is familiar with, which is why Blumenauer announced in October 2017 that he had started the Cannabis Fund PAC, to help both fund pro-cannabis reform candidates in races with staunch anti-reform incumbents, but to also take a more pro-active approach, such as placing billboards in Peter Sessions' district, calling him out on his positions regarding veterans and cannabis.
Zeroing in on the most rabid prohibitionists who are standing in the way of change is crucial. Veterans, and truly anyone in need, will not have easy access to cannabis until people like Sessions are voted out of office. Pete Sessions is up for reelection this November. It's a Texas-based race, but it could impact us all.