Veterans Affairs Is Not Preventing Suicides Successfully, Says GOP Rep. As Congressional Committee Approves Cannabis And Psychedelics Bills

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  • House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs approved Tuesday a pair of cannabis and psychedelics bills.

The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs approved a pair of cannabis and psychedelics bills on TuesdayCommittee members unanimously voted in favor of both proposals as part of a package with other bills, reported Marijuana Moment.

The news comes about a month after the House Veterans Affairs Health subcommittee discussed the two measures concerning medical marijuana and psychedelics for veterans and heard testimony from veterans service organizations advocating for the reforms.

The medical marijuana measure, sponsored by the subcommittee chair Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R), is called the Veterans Cannabis Analysis, Research and Effectiveness (CARE) Act. It requires the Veterans Administration (VA) to conduct and support research relating to the efficacy and safety of “forms of cannabis” -plants and extracts, different varieties of cannabis with different THC and CBD concentrations, and different delivery methods- for chronic pain, PTSD and “other conditions the Secretary determines appropriate.”

"My bill proposes research on non-opioid pain relief options for veterans with chronic pain and PTSD," Miller-Meeks said Tuesday before voting. "I want to emphasize that this bill is intended solely for research purposes. Gathering more data will enhance our ability to effectively treat our veterans."

The department would have to submit a research plan to VA committees in both chambers and make requests to support the studies; following enactment, it would have to send annual reports on progress for the following five years.

Psychedelics-Focused Bill 

The psychedelics-focused measure, H.R.7347, sponsored by Rep. Derick Van Orden (R) would amend the United States Code to direct the VA Secretary to report on whether to include certain psychedelic drugs in the VA formulary.

Under the bill, the VA is required to notify Congress should any psychedelics be added to its covered prescription drugs formulary within 180 days following their approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The VA previously said it opposes the “unnecessary” psychedelics measure, stating that the department “already has processes in place where formulary decisions regarding inclusion or exclusion of a drug are released publicly” and that “the bill would include additional administrative burden without any increase in transparency or accountability.”

"I have friends who are combat veterans who have personally benefited from these treatments," Van Orden said, adding that we have to do something different, as suicides are increasing. "If we can prevent one veteran from committing suicide so we don't have to go to another funeral then we should do it."

"I'm going to stress that what the Veterans Administration is doing is not working in preventing veteran suicide," Van Orden continued. "We can quantify that. We have numbers, we have widows, we have widowers, we have kids without parents because they've committed suicide as a direct result of their service to our nation."

While at the moment there is not a single psychedelics drug approved on the federal level to be prescribed as medicine, an important breakthrough in this area recently happened signaling possible change. In December, the FDA agreed to review a New Drug Application (NDA) for MDMA paired with psychological intervention for the potential treatment of PTSD. 

See Also: Veteran Organizations Urge Biden And DEA To Reform Cannabis Policy, Citing Health Issues

Florida Cannabis Legalization Campaign Calls On Vets To Join 

Meanwhile, Smart and Safe Florida, the advocacy group behind the Sunshine State's ballot measure to legalize cannabis is urging veterans to join their cause. 

In a recent email to supporters Smart and Safe Florida, said it's hoping to "grow one of the many coalitions we are building in Florida: Veterans. Our goal is to raise awareness among voters about the importance of cannabis as a safer alternative to synthetic opioids for treating PTSD and related conditions among veterans," wrote the campaign as reported by Marijuana Moment.

The campaign has gathered over a million signatures to place an adult-use legalization measure on the November 2024 ballot. The proposal is currently under review by the Florida Supreme Court, which is evaluating whether the amendment's wording sufficiently informs voters about the continued federal prohibition of marijuana.

See Also: DeSantis Furious As Legal Weed, Abortion Rights Move Toward November Ballot, Calls Amendments ‘Radical,’ ‘Confusing’ For Voters

Photo: Courtesy of Bumble Dee via Shutterstock

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