Democrat Charlie Crist & Republican Matt Gaetz team up in Congress to help veterans get medical weed

marijuana plant

An independent poll commissioned by the American Legion last year showed that 22 percent of veterans are currently using cannabis to treat a medical condition. Now two members of Florida’s congressional delegation are teaming up to protect veterans’ access to medical pot.

St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist and Panhandle area Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz announced last week that they are co-sponsoring two pieces of legislation in the House that aim to reform the Dept.of Veterans Affairs (VA) medicinal cannabis practices.

The first bill is The Dept. Of Veterans Affairs Policy for Medicinal Cannabis Use Act of 2018, which would protect veterans’ government benefits if they disclose medicinal cannabis use.

Crist and Gaetz are also co-sponsoring the VA Survey of Cannabis Use Act, which requires the VA to conduct a nationwide survey of all veterans and VA healthcare providers to learn how veterans are using medicinal cannabis.

Both bills are being sponsored by Massachusetts Democrat Seth Moulton, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served four tours of duty in Iraq.

“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,” Crist said in a statement. “No veteran should have their benefits or care impacted by their choice to seek the treatment options that work best for them.”

Gaetz has been a fervent supporter of medical marijuana, going back to his tenure in the Florida House of Representatives. In 2014, he sponsored legislation that legalized the use of low-THC medical pot to treat certain patients, such as children who suffer from debilitating seizures.

Gaetz is also endorsing a third medicinal marijuana-themed bill sponsored by Moulton. That would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide training in the use of medical cannabis for all Dept. Of Veterans Affairs’ primary care providers.

Crist is not a co-sponsor on that bill.

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

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

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