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Bill would streamline medical marijuana for Minnesota vets

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ST. PAUL - Veterans who want to enroll in Minnesota’s medical cannabis program could skip a pricey first step under a new House bill.

Under current law, those who want to enter the program must first find a doctor who will certify their qualifying condition. This can cost a few hundred dollars.

The federal VA health system does not let its doctors certify veterans for medical cannabis. Veterans must seek out another doctor and pay out of pocket.

The bill from state Rep. Jack Considine, DFL-Mankato, would exempt veterans from this step. Instead, they could show paperwork from the VA that proves they have a qualifying condition.

“Affordability and accessibility are huge problems with the program right now,” said Jeremy Sankey, the founder of Minnesota Veterans for Cannabis who spoke at a news conference Tuesday at the Minnesota Capitol. “A lot of veterans live on fixed incomes, some of those not very high.”

This would remove an expensive barrier for patients like John Jones. He uses medical marijuana to treat his chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. He said he already spends at least $800 a month on the medications, which are not covered by insurance.

“Some of us (veterans) are spending half of our … disability pay on just medicating,” said Jones, veteran outreach coordinator for Minnesota Veterans for Cannabis.