Bill Nelson files bill to get veterans access to medical cannabis

Bill Nelson Alex Azar hearing

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat facing a tough battle for re-election, filed a bill Wednesday that could help him with a key demographic: veterans seeking relief through medical cannabis.

The “Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Act” would offer five years of “safe harbor” protection for veterans who use cannabis or its derivatives. Additionally, the bill compels the VA to conduct research on how medical cannabis alleviates pain and battles opioid abuse (an all-too-frequent cause of death for veterans.

“Chronic pain affects … almost 60 percent of veterans returning from the Middle East,” along with “more than 50 percent of older veterans,” the bill asserts.

“Federal law prohibits VA doctors from prescribing or recommending medical marijuana to veterans,” Nelson noted. “This legislation will allow veterans in Florida and elsewhere the same access to legitimately prescribed medication, just as any other patient in those 31 states would have.”

A wide variety of advocacy groups for veterans and cannabis policy reform support the bill. Among them: American Academy of Pain Medicine, Veterans Cannabis Project, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, Americans for Safe Access, NORML, Marijuana Policy Project, Drug Policy Alliance, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, Veterans Cannabis Coalition and National Cannabis Industry Association.

Nelson has evolved on the issue of medical cannabis this year, though he has yet to advocate for rescheduling the plant or its derivatives.

In June, he launched sharp criticism of Gov. Rick Scott for “trying to torpedo the constitutional amendment for medical marijuana prescribed by a doctor. Scott and Nelson diverge on the utility of smokable medical cannabis.

Polling suggests that voters are with the Senator, not his challenger, on the issue of cannabis.

A survey from St. Pete Polls shows 74 percent of likely voters favor medical cannabis under a doctor’s prescription, with 20 percent in opposition to that course of treatment.

The same survey shows that 66 percent of voters agree with Nelson that cannabis should be smokable, a position Scott resists.

The survey also revealed that Scott is underwater with voters regarding implementation of the state’s medical cannabis legislation, with 45 percent disapproving and just 30 percent in support.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at [email protected]


  • Alejandt

    September 5, 2018 at 10:24 pm

    Definitely need to pass

  • Earl L. Kerr

    September 5, 2018 at 11:22 pm

    Medical marijuana is the answer to many facets of addiction
    where The Bell Curve is eliminated due to opioids. A simple
    form of use by Vaping is preferred. Although other options will
    suffice, there is no need to smoke it.

  • Goodwyn High

    September 5, 2018 at 11:46 pm

    Puff puff -passs the law.

  • Peter Henze

    September 6, 2018 at 12:25 am

    Thank you,Senator Nelson for your continuing support of veterans who will benefit from medicinal
    Also Judge K. today: major failure:he described all automatic guns as “equal”to Sen.Feinstein. No concern of huge ammo and speed difference between Vegas shooter Ar715 and auto handguns with fewer bullets and short range. EQUAL IN CCOMMON USE !!

  • Peter Henze

    September 6, 2018 at 12:27 am

    Thank you,Senator Nelson for your continuing support of veterans who will benefit from medicinal
    Also Judge K. today: major failure:he described all automatic guns as “equal”to Sen.Feinstein. No concern of huge ammo and speed difference between Vegas shooter Ar15 and auto handguns with fewer bullets and short range. EQUAL IN CCOMMON USE !!

  • Jeff Carter

    September 6, 2018 at 7:06 am

    That’s your opinion and your entitled to it. The number if vets in Florida that use cannabis is off the charts. Vaping is nice for some but we need the right to choose how we use cannabis, some smoke some cape and some use the whole plant in liquid for and drink it. We should have the right to choose what we want for delivery of medication. PS. It does help tremendously with opiod addiction.

  • Neil

    September 6, 2018 at 10:05 am

    I read all your statement and I laugh at all of you people …you all have been smoking pot all your lives and it’s not about your aches and pains is just a ploy …Do what you all for best drink to you get drunk and other source of pain meds..

  • Victor

    September 10, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    Only for some veterans, depending where they live. Shouldn’t medicine be available to everyone, all veterans regardless where they live? Nelson refusing to consider reclassification like any other medicine. Nelson proposes a complicated law to keep it illegal under federal law and only allow ‘safe harbor’ for some veterans for illegal possession and use of a prohibited substance.

    All the DEA has to do is reclassify it from 1 to 2. That’s all, doctors could prescribe it, patients could get it, like any other medicine. Marijuana was listed in U.S.P. as medicine from 1850 to 1942. THC has been reclassified and FDA approved since 1980’s. Patented for medical benefits by the US Dept of Health since 2001. For government to say it has no medical use have clearly failed to look at facts of modern historical record. To say marijuana cannot be used for medicine because it’s illegal, is to say sick people can’t have medicine because it’s abused by negroes and degenerate races. Which is exactly why it is prohibited. Thanks to Harry Jacob Anslinger of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics who contradicted even himself to push for prohibition of marijuana to preserve his job after alcohol prohibition was repealed. And of course Richard Nixon and his Schafer Commission for the class 1 war on drugs.

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