Presidential Candidates Commit to Medical Cannabis for Veterans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the Iowa Democratic Caucus about eighty days away—which will signal the start of the 2020 primaries for Democrats in the race for the White House—leading candidates Pete Buttigieg, and Senator Bernie Sanders (Vt.) have both declared their support of federal cannabis decriminalization.

Pushing their policy positions further, Senator Sanders and Mayor Buttigieg recently have included veterans’ access to medical marijuana to their platforms, to coincide with this week’s Veterans Day holiday.


Senator Sanders, who has already committed to decriminalizing cannabis within the first one hundred days of his presidency if he is elected, spelled out his commitment to veterans.  

In a post titled, “Honoring our Commitment to Veterans,” Sanders outlined his plans for veterans’ benefits and services. Among many other policy points, the Sanders statement guaranteed to:

“Ensure VA [Veterans Administration] providers have the option of appropriately prescribing medical marijuana to their patients.”

Also promised in the Sanders statement: “[To] Ensure any service member discharged from the military for marijuana use or possession can apply for a discharge upgrade, so they can become eligible for the full complement of services and benefits provided by the VA.”

Democratic candidate and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg visited a Las Vegas cannabis retailer in October, while in Sin City for a campaign swing. He told reporters then that an end to federal cannabis prohibition was long overdue and that he will decriminalize cannabis within his first term.

Like Sanders, Buttigieg outlined his veterans’ services policy points in a post on his official campaign website titled, “Our Shared Duty.”

On access to medical cannabis for veterans, the plan promised to, “Work with the VA to allow medical cannabis for service-connected diagnoses. Pete will push for the legalization of marijuana on the federal level and nationwide.

“In the meantime, recognizing the benefits of marijuana for certain service-connected issues like post-traumatic stress, Pete will support legislation that will empower VA physicians to issue medical cannabis recommendations to augment a veterans’ broader treatment plan, accordance with the laws of states where it is legal, and to conduct studies on the use of marijuana to treat pain,” it stated further.

According to the Veterans Cannabis Project, lawmakers currently are considering several pieces of legislation regarding veterans and medical cannabis accessibility. In late April, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health hearing included discussion of several pieces of legislation, including H.R. 712 – VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2019, H.R 2333 – Support for Suicide Prevention Coordinators Act, draft bills the Whole Veteran Act and Veterans’ Care Quality Transparency Act, H.R. 2340 – FIGHT Veteran Suicides Act, H.R. 1647 – Veterans Equal Access Act, H.R. 2191 – Veterans Cannabis Use for Safe Healing Act, and H.R. 100 – Veteran Overmedication and Suicide Prevention Act of 2019.

“These bills would provide the kind of research, legal access through VA doctors, and protection of earned benefits that veterans overwhelmingly want and deserve,” Veterans Cannabis Project Executive Director Doug Distatso said in a statement.

“President Trump and Congress could literally save veterans’ lives by enacting these bills into law,” Distatso added, citing the devastating effect opioid medications have had on veterans, especially those suffering from chronic pain or PTSD.

“With the opioid overdose and suicide crisis hitting our veterans, they deserve legal access to medical cannabis through their VA doctors as a safer alternative to the highly addictive and often deadly opioids and other pills the VA readily gives them,” he said.