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A congressional committee approved a bill Tuesday that would allow cannabis to be used to treat veterans suffering chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Both ailments disproportionately affect many veterans, according to witnesses who testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Colorado U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman said the bill could create a better alternative to the highly addictive opioids commonly used by Veterans Administration doctors.

“I am not opposed to using marijuana extracts, following the appropriate medical research, as an alternative to indiscriminately prescribing opioids to our veterans to deal with chronic pain,” Coffman told Colorado Politics. “I have long fought the VA for being too ‘drug-centric’ in their modality of treatment for combat-related stress disorders because it only masks the symptoms as opposed to addressing the underlying problems.”

There’s little doubt chronic pain treatment will be offered at the $2 billion Veterans Administration Hospital set to open in Aurora in August. However, changes in design and budgets in the eight years since construction started make it unclear whether a post-traumatic stress disorder clinic originally planned for the hospital will open there.

Coffman, R-Aurora, is a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee that approved the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act. The committee’s approval moves the bill toward a second vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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