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Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act introduced in U.S. Senate – September 5, 2018

Democratic Senators Bill Nelson (Florida) and Brian Schatz (Hawaii) have introduced S3409 – the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act. Although the text of the bill is not yet on the Congress website (www.thomas.loc.gov), it is available through Senator Nelson’s site: https://www.billnelson.senate.gov/sites/default/files/Medical%20Marijuana%20for%20Veterans.pdf

The bill is smartly conceived and plainly written. It provides a temporary 5-year safe harbor for VA doctors in the 30 states (and DC) with medical marijuana laws to recommend, complete forms for, or register veterans for participation in a treatment program. It also appropriates $15 million for VA studies on the use of medical marijuana for pain and as an alternative for opioid use.

This follows on an August 30, 2018 letter from the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie encouraging him to use his authority “to conduct a rigorous clinical trial into the safety and efficacy of medicinal cannabis for veterans with PTSD and chronic pain.”

I would recommend that the bill also consider whether the VA doctors should have a FAERS-like reporting regime. FAERS – the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System – is a database that contains adverse events reports, medication error reports, and product quality complaints resulting in adverse events that were submitted to the FDA. The database is designed to support the FDA’s post-marketing safety surveillance program for drugs and therapeutic biologic products. Requiring FAERS-like reporting would provide much-needed data on the efficacy and safety of marijuana.