Republicans in the US Senate voted this week to block a bill that would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct research into cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In a procedural vote Wednesday, the Senate declined to advance the Veterans Affairs Medical Cannabis Research Bill (S. 326) by a vote of 57-42, short of the 60 votes needed to continue debate on the measure.
The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Democratic Montana Sen. John Tester earlier this year with co-sponsorship from Sen. Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican. In February, the bill was It was approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee by vote in closed session.
under Bill, a VA would be required to conduct a large-scale observational study to evaluate the safety and efficacy of cannabis as a treatment for PTSD and chronic pain. identical invoice (RB 1003) sponsored by California Democratic Rep. Lou Correa, is also pending in the House of Representatives, with Republican Representative Jack Bergman signing on as a co-sponsor.
The clinical study will explore the positive and negative health outcomes of cannabis use by military veterans, including whether marijuana use reduces alcohol or opioid use. The study will also look at other aspects of medical cannabis use, including pain intensity, sleep quality, arousal, and overall quality of life. Once the study is complete, the legislation requires the VA to report to Congress on the results and the feasibility of conducting a clinical trial.
Vote blocks new research on veterans’ health
When he introduced the bill earlier this year, Tester, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said in a statement that the legislation would give veterans new options for managing their health care.
“Our nation’s veterans deserve choices when it comes to treating war wounds, which is why helping victims needs a better understanding of how medical cannabis plays a role in their healing.” He said. “Our bipartisan bill ensures that Veterans Assistance listens to the growing number of veterans who find critical relief from alternative therapies such as medical cannabis, while working to empower veterans to make safe, informed decisions about their health.”
A total of 41 Republican senators voted to block the bipartisan bill, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer subsequently changing his vote to “no” in order to keep the bill alive per Senate rules.
In a social media post, Tester wrote that “41 Republican senators just chose partisan political games over providing our country’s veterans with hard-earned benefits and care. 41 Republican senators are telling the men and women who have defended our country that their government Their sacrifices are not appreciated.”
“Not only are they banning veterans from *seeking* medical cannabis as an alternative treatment for veterans dealing with chronic pain or PTSD — they’re banning improvements to veterans’ homeownership efforts, community support, outreach, and more.” He completed. “This is totally unacceptable.”
In a speech before the vote, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee member Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, one of the eight Republican senators who voted to move forward with the cannabis bill, said the measure “is an effort to make sure that veterans don’t Something that harms them and helps them make an informed decision,” According to a report from Military Times.
But the senators who supported the bill on Wednesday weren’t enough to move the measure forward. GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said the decision to block the cannabis research bill came after a “spirited debate” during a Senate Republican policy lunch before the vote.
Cornyn he told CNN that there are concerns among GOP senators about the clinical trial methodology authorized by law because “this retrospective study will be done strictly with volunteers coming forward and talking about their experience with marijuana and PTSD,” and “it relies on people self-selecting and we don’t know.” How this will skew the results.”
The senator also said Republicans have not been given “assurances” that they will be given the opportunity to introduce amendments to the legislation, adding that there are concerns about whether the bill will be taken up by the House and GOP leadership.
Political concerns may also have been at play, with critics of the bill’s introduction suggesting that the potential success of the legislation could be seen as a win for Tester, the incumbent Democratic senator running for re-election in a conservative state.
Cornyn indicated that negotiations on the bill would continue and that the legislation could be revived in the Senate. He explained that Wednesday’s vote was “hitting the pause button” on the measure. Schumer called the vote to halt the bill “unfortunate,” adding that he hoped efforts to revive the legislation in the Senate would succeed later.
Jeffrey M. Zucker, president of Denver-based cannabis-focused business strategy Green Lion Partners and vice chairman of the Marijuana Policy Project, expressed disappointment with the decision to delay action on the Veterans Affairs Act for medical cannabis research.
“I am deeply saddened to hear that Republican senators blocked a procedural vote to move this bill forward. It is disheartening to see how politics can block progress on an issue that could make a huge difference to veterans’ lives and should not be a controversy,” Zucker wrote. in an email to High times. However, I remain hopeful that lawmakers can come together to pass a bill that allows for medical cannabis research and eventually allows veterans to enjoy the benefits of medical cannabis. Veterans deserve the best possible care, and medical cannabis can provide much-needed relief to those who suffer from chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions. It’s time for our leaders to set aside their differences and do what’s right for our veterans.”