Inbox: Lawmakers To Host “Advocacy Hour” To Discuss Medical Cannabis Bill

“This legislation is key to help streamline the process for veterans to obtain a medical cannabis card.”

As we reported following last week’s meeting of the Cannabis Control Commission, Massachusetts regulators have expressed significant interest in expanding medical marijuana access for veterans. Among other changes, they’d like to add “post-traumatic stress disorder, opioid use disorder, and other conditions as determined in writing by a registered qualifying patient’s registered healthcare professional” to the list of debilitating conditions that can qualify someone to get a card.

Meanwhile, on Beacon Hill, lawmakers and veteran advocates are working on legislative fixes that could spur such changes. To that end, Rep. Michael Soter and State Sen. Ryan Fattman, along with Massachusetts veterans and allies, announced that they will host an “advocacy hour to discuss and explain bill H.119, An Act further defining eligibility for medical use marijuana, and its companion bill in the Senate, S.50 of the same name.” From their announcement:

The advocacy hour will be hosted at the Massachusetts State House, and it is aimed at providing education on the US Department of Veterans Affairs VA Health Care system. Current policy for Veteran Health Administration (VHA) providers prohibits them from completing forms or registering Veterans for participation in a State-approved marijuana program. Veterans of all eras have been able to find healing with the use of medical cannabis.

For over two decades the Veteran community has been dealing with a suicide crisis as well as an opioid overdose death crisis at disturbingly higher rates than their civilian counter parts. Medical Cannabis has been helping countless Veterans in Massachusetts and across the nation replace or reduce the amount of some medications, which according to the Department of Justice/Drug Enforcement Agency, have overdose effects including, respiratory depression, coma, and death. This is a form of harm-reduction for people in need of pain relief, without the fear of overdose death, as recovery and healing can only be accomplished by the living.

“Veterans have long seen success in medical-use cannabis,” Fattman said in a statement. “We are hosting this educational session to spread awareness of the benefits our veterans are seeing as they utilize this state-approved medical solution. We hope you will join us to learn more.”

“This legislation is key to help streamline the process for veterans to obtain a medical cannabis card by allowing veterans to submit their Veterans Administration (VA) ‘Blue Button Report Problem List’ indicating an existing debilitating medical condition to the commission,” Soter said. “It is our hope that this educational program will help show our colleagues, staff, and the public at large the benefits that medical cannabis can provide to the veterans that have given so much to our country.” 

Local veteran activist Stephen Mandile added, “The goal of H.119/S.50 is to help heal our nation’s wounded with access to a drug legal in Massachusetts, being used as a form of harm reduction by thousands of veterans in Massachusetts, with as few barriers as possible while we work on policy ending prohibition at the US Department of Veterans Affairs and allowing access to veterans nationwide.”

The event will take place at the State House, Room 350 on June 22, 2023 from 11am to 12pm.