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House Moves Forward with Amendments on Cannabis and Psychedelic Therapy Research for Veterans
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House Moves Forward with Amendments on Cannabis and Psychedelic Therapy Research for Veterans

Seraiah Alexander
Seraiah Alexander
June 10, 2024
3 min

Veterans’ healthcare options are set to expand with House amendments backing medical marijuana and psychedelic therapy research. 

The 2024 FY Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act initially focused on funding infrastructure and essential services for veterans, but these recent amendments have broadened its scope, including provisions for alternative healthcare options. 

Medical marijuana recommendations

The amendments include one that would give VA doctors the ability to recommend medical marijuana in legal states. Previously, even discussing cannabis as a treatment option was restricted by federal law. By integrating medical marijuana into the VA’s healthcare offerings, veterans will have a regulated pathway to use cannabis for managing conditions like chronic pain and anxiety. These provisions, proposed by Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Dave Joyce (R-OH) passed with a vote of 290-116. 

“Beyond the veteran population, the nation is turning the page on how we think about cannabis. It’s become a key part of the medical system in more than 30 states. It offers law-abiding Americans a low-cost and safe option,” said Rep. Mast on the floor. “Do not keep those who’ve fought for our country from accessing what’s proven to be a critical tool for pain management. It is time for change. Veterans deserve to have access to every possible tool, and the best medical options available and the best possible medical advice by their doctors.”

Psychedelic research funding

The House amendments also included multiple provisions related to psychedelic research. These changes would explore the benefits of psychedelics, such as psilocybin and MDMA, in treating PTSD and other mental health issues prevalent among veterans. The amendments call for more comprehensive clinical trials and studies within the VA system to explore the efficacy of psychedelic-assisted therapy for treating these conditions. Allocated funding will be set aside to support these studies so that the VA will have enough resources to conduct thorough research. 

Although psychedelics remain federally illegal and classified as Schedule I substances under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), both psilocybin and MDMA have been recognized by the FDA for their potential therapeutic benefits and have been granted Breakthrough Therapy designation to fast-track their research and development. Recent clinical trials outside the VA have shown promising results, yet research more focused on veteran conditions will be needed to fully understand its impact on the specific needs of veteran populations. 

The psychedelic-related medications saw bipartisan support from several lawmakers, including Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI), Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA), Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-WI), Rep. David Valadao (R-CA), and Rep. Morgan Luttrell (R-TX). While amendments like these have faced scrutiny in the past, proponents argue that psychedelics could offer new hope to veterans who have not responded to traditional treatment options. 

“Psychedelic-assisted therapies have the potential to be the first genuine advancement in the treatment of veterans’ mental health in decades,” said Rep. Berman. “It is essential that the VA continues their efforts to research these compounds and do everything they can to ensure that they have trained therapists and those trained therapists are ready to meet the need and provide these new breakthrough treatments once they receive FDA approval.”

Next steps in the legislative process

As promising as these new amendments are, they’re faced with cautious optimism from advocates and lawmakers as the bill progresses to the Senate. The Senate review will determine whether these groundbreaking provisions will be enacted into law and integrated into the VA’s healthcare system. The amendments may face further modifications to ensure regulatory and safety considerations or could be denied altogether. Nonetheless, supporters are hopeful that the bipartisan momentum seen in the House will continue so that veterans can one day have safe and legal access to the alternative therapies they deserve.

“As we saw last year, demonstrating clear congressional approval for these innovative efforts can motivate real action within the federal bureaucracy,” said Rep. Bergman before the vote. “We owe it to our veterans to do everything we can in support of these breakthrough therapies.”


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legislation
Seraiah Alexander

Seraiah Alexander

Content Editor

Table Of Contents

1
Medical marijuana recommendations
2
Psychedelic research funding
3
Next steps in the legislative process

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