(Helen H. Richardson, Denver Post file)

House narrowly rejects bid to let VA docs give advice on medical pot

WASHINGTON — The GOP-controlled House on Thursday barely rejected a bid by supporters of medical marijuana to permit veterans to receive information about the drug from their government doctors.

The 213-210 vote came on a failed amendment to a bill funding the budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The proposal by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., would have lifted a rule blocking VA doctors from discussing the pros or cons of medical pot. They would still not have been able to prescribe it. He said marijuana is less addicting and dangerous than drugs like opiates that are commonly prescribed.

“States are listening to their residents on the benefits of medical marijuana, including veterans, and are changing their laws,” Blumenauer said. “It is unacceptable for our wounded warriors to be forced out of the VA system to simply seek a recommendation on whether or not medical marijuana is a good treatment option.”

Thirty-six states permit the use of medical marijuana, which advocates say helps with conditions like chronic pain, glaucoma, anxiety, and nausea from chemotherapy or drugs to combat HIV.

Opponents like Maryland GOP Rep. Andy Harris, a medical doctor, said there’s little evidence of the benefits of medical marijuana.

“There just isn’t good science behind what it works for and what it doesn’t,” Harris said.

Thursday’s vote was much closer than a tally on an identical amendment last year, even though Republicans made marked gains in last year’s mid-term elections. This year, 35 Republicans supported the move; last year’s tally was 22 Republicans. Fewer Democrats opposed the amendment this year as well.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com