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Charlie Crist doubles down on medical cannabis protections for veterans

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist co-sponsored legislation aimed at reforming Veterans Affairs medical cannabis policies and practices. Crist introduced the legislation last week with U.S. Reps. Seth Moulton, Matt Gaetz, and Lou Correa to coincide with Veterans Day.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Policy for Medical Cannabis Use Act amends the VA’s policy to protect a veteran’s benefits if they disclose the use of the controlled substance.

Another bill, the VA Survey of Cannabis Use Act, requires the VA to conduct a nationwide survey of all veterans and veteran health care providers to establish data on how and to what extent veterans are using cannabis for medical use.

Crist also introduced the Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act earlier this year that protects veterans’ federal employment opportunities if using the drug is in compliance with state laws.

“The VA’s policies surrounding cannabis are in dire need of reform as more states allow use and veterans suffering from PTSD and chronic pain increasingly turn to this treatment option over opioids. No veteran should have their benefits or care impacted by their choice to seek the treatment options that work best for them,” Crist said. “Furthermore, the VA should research medicinal cannabis so providers can best advise patients. I hope to see swift action on these bipartisan bills to help provide veterans the clarity and care they have earned.”

The latest act protecting veteran health benefits despite medical cannabis use reaffirms policy that already exists but reaffirms for both patients and health care providers that use will not compromise their benefits.

Many veterans are fearful of discussing their medical cannabis treatment for fear it may jeopardize ongoing care. The bill seeks to end that fear.

The second bill surveying veterans and VA health providers is expected to provide a better understanding of how veterans are self-medicating themselves to treat various conditions.

Both bills have been endorsed by the Drug Policy Alliance, National Cannabis Industry Association, and NORML.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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