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Federal Cannabis Reform and Illinois

New Legislature Poised To Pass Federal Cannabis Reform

The current Congress was poised to pass several medical cannabis bills, including those that would grant our veterans access to medical cannabis through the Department of Veterans Affairs. There was a bill introduced last September and the Senate voted overwhelming to support it. At the eleventh hour, this happened….

The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, was filed on September 5, 2018, in the Senate. On September 12, 2018, the full Senate voted 85-9 in favor of the ActAfter it was passed, during the House/Senate reconciliation process, a few congressional leaders removed the provision, the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, that would allow veterans equal access to medical cannabis usage through VA doctors.

Fast forward to November 6, 2018. The Democrats took back control of the US House of Representatives. A defining moment, which will undoubtedly lead to a loosening of federal cannabis laws, was the defeat of Congressman Pete Sessions, R-TX, who lost his bid for re-election to Colin Allred. Sessions has been the House Rules Committee Chairman since 2012. He has repeatedly blocked the passage of bills and amendments that would have allowed the relaxation of federal cannabis laws and denied veterans access to cannabis usage in legal medical cannabis states. He went so far as blocking 2 Opioid Crisis Amendments from being brought to the House floor for a vote in June, 2018.

When the 116th US House of Representatives is sworn in on January 3, 2019, the new House Rules Committee Chairman will be Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA). He has promised to allow an open debate of cannabis reform by House members. Rep. McGovern is acknowledging that the majority of Americans support the passage of a federal law to legalize medical cannabis. McGovern said, “Unlike my predecessor, I’m not going to block amendments for marijuana. Citizens are passing ballot initiatives, legislatures are passing laws, and we need to respect that. Federal laws and statutes are way behind.”

Other changes to cannabis laws which already have bipartisan support include discussing the banking restrictions that force cannabis businesses to use all-cash payments. Also under discussion would be allowing the VA to prescribe medical cannabis for veterans and for federal allowances for states’ rights for cannabis reform. We may even see cannabis rescheduled from a Schedule 1 drug to Schedule 2 or 3 or even removed altogether from the Controlled Substance  Act of 1970.

The replacement of Sessions by McGovern gives every indication that federal cannabis reform legislation will finally pass. In anticipation of this development, Rep Seth Moulton (D-MA), a former Marine Corps officers who fought in Iraq, and Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL) are poised to introduce 3 bills in the next legislative session. Together, these bills would finally grant veterans access to medical cannabis through the VA.

  1. One of the bills will allow VA doctors to speak freely with their patients about medical cannabis usage without penalty. The bill would actually require VA doctors to recommend medical cannabis as an alternative to opioid usage. Veterans will no longer be in jeopardy of losing their federal benefits when they use medical cannabis. In the past, some veterans have been denied access to prescription medications when their medical cannabis usage was revealed.
  2. The VA would be required to collect comprehensive data from veterans who use medical cannabis in order to educate VA doctors about the many conditions that cannabis successfully treats.
  3. Federal funds would be allocated to the VA in order to partner with medical schools who already teach courses about medical cannabis. Many VA doctors are very uninformed about cannabis usage and about the endocannabinoid system. With this legislation, the research that substantiates the benefits of cannabis will be readily available to VA doctors.

This is a huge step forward for veterans who have been repeatedly denied access to cannabis usage through the VA. Those who do not live in medical cannabis states have been forced to use opioids or other prescription medications with severe side effects as their only legal treatment options. NORML, (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws), and the National Cannabis Industry Association have wholeheartedly endorsed this legislation.

Rep Moulton said “lawmakers have an obligation to ensure veterans receive the best health care.” 

Source:, Pete Sessions’ Replacement Won’t Block Cannabis Reform, Pat Beggan, 11/14/18, House Reps Announce Trio of Bills To Make VA More 420-Friendly for Veterans, 11/15/18

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