Metro-East News

U.S. House votes to allow VA to recommend medical pot

Mike Fitzgerald
Mike Fitzgerald

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to allow Veterans Administration doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients in states where the treatment is legal, according to Huffington Post.

The Veterans Equal Access Amendment, introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, effectively strikes down a Department of Veterans Affairs restriction on its doctors recommending medical marijuana as treatment for veterans experiencing pain, PTSD or other conditions. Under current regulations, veterans had to seek these recommendations outside of the VA system and pay out of pocket for the related expenses.

Medical marijuana is legal in 24 states as well as the District of Columbia.

The House passed the amendment, which is attached to the 2017 military appropriations bill, in a 233-189 vote. Later Thursday, the Senate passed a massive spending bill including similar language on medical marijuana. (The Senate’s amendment was approved by the appropriations committee last month.) Pending final passage of the spending bill and approval by the president, the new regulation would go into effect next year.


A Charleston-based Air Force cargo jet will carry a NASA spacecraft across the country on Friday to Florida where it will be launched later this year toward an asteroid in outerspace, according to the Charleston, S.C. Post and Courier newspaper.

The C-17, part of the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base, will deliver the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from Buckley Air Force Base in Colo., to the Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has a unique mission ahead: traveling to a near-Earth asteroid called Bennu. After several years of mapping and study, the craft will bring a 2.1-ounce sample back for study.

“The mission will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth,” the Air Force said in a news release.

Bennu is considered a carbon-rich asteroid and contains ancient information about the earliest history of the solar system. Bennu is also considered a potentially hazardous asteroid and has a chance of impacting the Earth late in the 22nd century, according to government and scientific projections.


A federal appeals court has ruled that wearing unearned military medals is a form of free speech and therefor is protected under the Constitution.

The decision was reached by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals through an 11-judge panel, which found that the First Amendment protects citizens from being charged with stolen valor as a crime, according to The Associated Press.

In 2006, President George Bush signed the Stolen Valor Act, which made it a misdemeanor to falsely claim military accomplishments into law. However, the Supreme Court struck it down in 2012.

After the Stolen Valor Act was deemed unconstitutional, Congress passed a law making it a crime to profit financially by lying about military service and President Barack Obama signed it in 2013.

This decision allowed the court to overturn an Idaho man’s conviction for wearing unearned medals.

The convicted man, Elven Joe Swisher, was a Korean War Marine who testified on the stand in a 2005 criminal case wearing several military medals. Investigators later determined Swisher had not earned any medals he was wearing and violated the Stolen Valor Act.


A U.S. Marine Corps veteran made history Thursday as the first ever combat-wounded amputee to reach the summit of Mount Everest, according to ABC News.

Staff Sgt. Charlie Linville, 30, climbed the 29,029-foot summit of the highest mountain on earth with a prosthetic leg after being involved in a blast in Afghanistan in 2011 that left him with serious injuries to his right food and hand.

Linville, a father of two from Boise, Idaho, decided to have his right leg amputated below the knee after rehabilitation and reconstructive surgeries, according to The Heroes Project , an organization that leads mountaineering expeditions with gravely wounded veterans and active service members to help them rediscover their strength and pride.

This was Linville’s third attempt to reach the summit of Everest with The Heroes Project. The team canceled its climb in 2014 to honor the 18 Sherpas who died in an avalanche. Last year’searthquake in Nepal ended the second attempt.

Also climbing Everest is former U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Chad Jukes, who lost his right leg in Iraq in December 2006 when an improvised explosive device (IED) struck his vehicle.

Jukes is climbing with a separate team, the USX Veteran Everest Expedition, which is believed to be about four days away from reaching Everest’s summit. The USX Veteran Everest Expedition's team aims to honor veterans and raise awareness about their mental health.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000