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Senators File Cannabis-Related Amendments to Must-Pass Defense Spending Bill

A.J. Herrington

By A.J. Herrington

October 5, 2022

Marijuana. Cannabis joint being prepared. Medical or recreative

iStock

Lawmakers in the

have filed two cannabis-related amendments to a pending defense spending authorization bill. It’s a common effort to use the must-pass legislation as a vehicle to advance marijuana policy reform efforts. One proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would legalize medical marijuana for military veterans, while the second would call on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to protect home loan benefits for former members of the military who work in the legal cannabis industry.

The NDAA is annual legislation that mandates the budget and appropriations for the Department of Defense. The Senate is scheduled to begin debating this year’s version of the bill on October 11, with a final vote on the legislation expected after the midterm elections in November. Because the measure funds U.S. military operations around the globe, the annual bill is considered “must-pass” legislation that requires approval from Congress every year.

This week, Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii filed a proposed amendment to the bill that would legalize medical marijuana for military veterans,

from Marijuana Moment.

The amendment is similar to a bipartisan standalone bill, the

, that Schatz sponsored in the Senate last year with five senators including independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Illinois. In the House, a companion measure () was sponsored by a bipartisan group of congresspeople including Rep. David Joyce, an Ohio Republican, and Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California.

The legislation would allow military veterans to legally possess medical cannabis under federal law, provided that the patient has received a doctor’s recommendation to use medicinal marijuana and that such use is in accordance with state law. The measure also allows VA physicians to issue recommendations to use medical marijuana and directs the agency to research the potential for medical cannabis to treat pain and reduce the use of opioids.

“In 36 states, doctors and their patients have the option to use medical marijuana to manage pain — unless those doctors work for the VA and their patients are veterans,”

in a press release when the legislation was introduced last year. “This bill protects veteran patients in these states and gives their VA doctors the option to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans, and it also promises to shed light on how medical marijuana can help with the nation’s opioid epidemic.”

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Cannabis-related Amendment Protects Home Loan Benefits for Veterans

Another proposed amendment to this year’s NDAA  from Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Wyoming Republican Sen. Cynthia Lummis would help ensure eligibility for home loan benefits for veterans who work for state-legal cannabis businesses. The amendment clarifies “the sense of Congress” that veterans “should not be denied access to Department of Veterans Affairs home loans on the basis of income derived from State-legalized cannabis activities.”

In July, the VA clarified that federal law does not deny eligibility for home loan benefits to veterans who work in the regulated cannabis industry. But the agency also acknowledged that veterans in the cannabis industry could likely face challenges obtaining financing from many lenders. 

The amendment notes that “many veterans continue to be denied access to home loans on the basis of income derived from State-legalized cannabis activities.” The senators said VA “should improve communication with eligible lending institutions to reduce confusion among lenders and borrowers on this matter.”

In July, the House approved an identical amendment to the NDAA from Democratic Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts. Several other cannabis-related amendments to the spending bill were also approved by the House, including one from Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Florida Republican Brian Mast. It would allow VA doctors to write medical marijuana recommendations but does not legalize the medicinal use of cannabis for veterans.

Another amendment from Blumenauer would incorporate language from the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, a bill to allow banking services for the cannabis industry, into the NDAA.

A.J. Herrington

About The Author

A.J. Herrington

HIGH THERE MISSION

WE’RE A CREATIVE COMMUNITY — EXPLORING THE SCIENCE, CRAFT, AND CULTURE OF CANNABIS.
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