The start to the federal legislative session for 2019 not only saw the introduction of HR420, or the Regulation Marijuana Like Alcohol Act; it also saw a bill introduced that would hopefully help veterans get marijuana treatments they need for various conditions.

The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act is a directive for Veterans Affairs to research treatments that would benefit veterans and incorporate marijuana.

The legislation specifies drug trials as a viable method of research for outcomes related to this treatment, and the parallels between this legislation and a bill introduced last year are significant. Meanwhile, the major difference between this year’s bill and last year’s is that the bill says the director of the VA “shall” start trials, while the one last year used wording that included “may.”

Currently, two veterans are leading the charge in legal settings to fight the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. Leo Bridgewater of New Jersey and Jose Belen of Florida are part of a lawsuit with former NFL player Marvin Washington, which is currently in federal court.

Belen is a survivor of opioid overdose, and both men are acting as representatives of the veterans that fight depression, anxiety, and PTSD on a daily basis — struggling to keep going and not opt for suicide.

Belen noted that HR420 is a move forward, and extended time fighting the issue in court will only mean more veterans are hurt or lost that could have benefited from treatments involving marijuana.

Two other co-plaintiffs in the suit are individuals who suffered from serious conditions that could have benefited from marijuana treatments when they were children. They also hope to see legalization move forward, to benefit the numerous children who struggle with neurological disorders or other conditions where marijuana could provide pain relief or help controlling the illness.

One well-known case that is quoted often involves an eight-year-old who suffered from a neurological disorder and had to move from Texas to Colorado to get relief using marijuana treatments. The hope is to allow these children to get the treatment they need without a move across state lines.

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