'Our Veterans Deserve Better,' Congressperson Calls On VA To Allow Medical Marijuana Research

As cannabis remains illegal federally, agencies like Veterans Affairs have little ability to provide medical marijuana to vets, but California Democrat Lou Correa is hoping to change. Congressman Correa has introduced legislation that would make it clear that VA can legally perform cannabis research and decide for itself what would be help veterans in need.

"Our veterans deserve better," said Correa, whose bill is one of many proposed this year to increase access to medical marijuana for veterans. "To not acknowledge that our veterans are using cannabisI think it's just plain criminal."

Without government approval, many vets are turning to advocates like Aaron Newsom, who has been providing veterans with free cannabis through the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance since 20011. His group currently serves 1,000 veterans from around the Santa Cruz Area, and they "we would love to get a government contract to be able to grow on a national level for the VA, for veterans," Newsom told NPR recently.

At the same time, Newsom wants VA doctors to be allowed to provide veterans with proper medical advice.

"We're definitely not doctors," he added. "We are farmers. And so we're here to provide free medicine and provide as much information as we possibly can."

For now, veterans in states like California can get around federal prohibition by purchasing cannabis through state-legalized medical or recreational markets. But prohibition still reigns in many states, so thousands of veterans across the country do not have access to to the treatments they deserve.

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President Trump's 2020 budget request includes a loophole that would let Washington, DC finally open up dispensaries for recreational cannabis. Although DC voters passed a ballot initiative to legalize recreational cannabis back in 2014, Congress has used its power over the nation's capital to prevent it from selling cannabis for recreational use. Right now, local dispensaries can only sell medical marijuana to registered patients thanks to Congress, which controls spending in the District of Columbia.

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