GOP Congress Abandons Vets, Strikes Cannabis Relief from Spending Bill

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Three days ago lawmakers in the Republican-led U.S. Congress passed a $147 billion spending bill aimed at funding portions of the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), a previously passed energy and water bill, and portions of the legislative branch of the federal government in 2019.

But it’s what was not in the spending bill that caught our eye.

As with the lead up to any multifaceted spending bill, politicians from both sides of the aisle work to get their own earmarked projects, ideas, and promises jammed into the bill in exchange for their vote.

Various committees in the House then review the entire bill, along with everyone’s earmarks, and vote on what can stay and what has to go.

Pete Sessions playing dress-up...though he did advance to the esteemed rank of Eagle Scout

Pete Sessions playing dress-up...though he did advance to the esteemed rank of Eagle Scout

Republican Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas (no relation to Jeff Sessions and definitely not invited to any of our sessions) is the chairman of the House Rules Committee and is notoriously anti-cannabis. He has a long history of blocking any and all cannabis and even hemp-related amendments from ever seeing a fair vote and this week he was back at it again.

In fact, there were four cannabis related amendments originally attached to this week’s spending bill – three that would help our nation’s veterans gain safer access to medical cannabis and a fourth that would protect grower’s rights when it comes to water use.

All four were stripped from the final version of the bill thanks entirely to Pete Sessions and the Republican-led committee.

The first amendment would have allowed veterans to seek and receive medical marijuana recommendations from their VA doctors – Sessions and company blocked it even though it has already passed votes in both the House and the Senate but has never been enacted into law because of GOP obstruction throughout the year.

The next amendment shredded by Sessions would have protected our vets from losing their VA benefits if they were found to be using cannabis medicinally. Just heartless.

The third amendment aimed to protect employees of the VA who happened to be vets from being fired due to cannabis use. Even if they are following their state’s cannabis laws, these alleged “small government” Republicans flexed their federal muscle to keep that threat alive.

The fourth cannabis related amendment struck down by Sessions and the House Rules Committee this week was written specifically to prevent the US Bureau of Reclamation from enforcing a rule that could potentially be used to deny access to water rights for large-scale cannabis growers. Another gross overreach of federal powers by a party that allegedly stands against such a thing.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) lobbied his colleagues hard in favor of the VA-related cannabis reform amendments, and though he was disgusted by the actions taken by Sessions and the rest, he was certainly not surprised.

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He says that it is “shameful” how our vets are being treated by the VA under its current cannabis regulations, and warns any Republicans who opposed these amendments that they are on the wrong side of history on the issue.

“Pretty miserable legacy,” Blumenauer told Marijuana Moment in an exclusive interview.

Speaking of his GOP counterparts, he added, “This is an example of something that the overwhelming majority of people in both the House and the Senate support. There’s bipartisan support for it. There’s no reason that it shouldn’t be debated.”

There is a lot of positive news in the headlines these days regarding cannabis legalization but the way our veterans are being discriminated against is shameful indeed.

These allegedly pro-military lawmakers are forcing veterans to find non-VA 3rd party doctors at their own expense – doctors who do not know their medical history or usually even care to, and who are not trained at all on how to deal with the unique mental and physical health challenges that our vets face. Then if they are caught doing this, they can lose their job or career or the health benefits that in many cases they literally risked their lives for.

Are you looking for a cause to get behind?

Support our troops and our vets in a meaningful way by defending their rights to safe access to cannabis and pressure your local politicians to do the same.