Yo, what’s good? Dan here. So, some news from the Senate this week. Republicans voted to block a bill that would have directed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct research into cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Veterans Affairs Medicinal Cannabis Research Bill would have required the VA to conduct a large-scale observational study that evaluates the safety and efficacy of cannabis as a treatment for PTSD and chronic pain. An identical bill sponsored by California Democratic Representative Lou Correa is also pending in the House of Representatives, with Republican Representative Jack Bergman signed on as a co-sponsor.
When he introduced the bill earlier this year, Montana Democrat Senator Jon Tester, the chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said in a statement that the legislation would give military veterans new choices to manage their health care. “Our nation’s veterans deserve options when it comes to treating the wounds of war, which is why VA needs to have a better understanding of how medicinal cannabis plays a role in their healing,” he said. “Our bipartisan bill ensures VA is listening to the growing number of veterans who find critical relief from alternative treatments like medicinal cannabis, while working to empower veterans in making safe and informed decisions about their health.”
But that’s not what happened this week. A total of 41 GOP senators voted to block the bipartisan bill, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer then changing his vote to “no” in order to keep the bill alive under the Senate’s rules. In a social media post, Tester wrote that “41 Senate Republicans just chose partisan political games over providing our nation’s veterans their hard-earned benefits and care. 41 Senate Republicans are telling the men and women who have defended our country that their government doesn’t value their sacrifices.” Not cool, man.
But don’t worry, it’s not over yet. Negotiations on the bill will continue and the legislation could be revived in the Senate. Schumer described the vote to stop the bill as “regrettable,” adding that he hopes efforts to resurrect the legislation in the Senate at a later date are successful.
Jeffrey M. Zucker, president of Denver-based cannabis-focused business strategy firm Green Lion Partners and vice-chair of the Marijuana Policy Project board of directors, expressed disappointment at the decision to delay action on the Veterans Affairs Medicinal Cannabis Research Bill. “I’m deeply saddened to hear that the Senate Republicans have blocked a procedural vote to advance this bill. It’s frustrating to see how politics can prevent progress on an issue that could make a huge difference in the lives of veterans and should really have no controversy surrounding it,” Zucker wrote in an email to High Times. “However, I’m still hopeful that lawmakers can come together to pass a bill that allows research into medical cannabis and eventually allows veterans to enjoy the benefits of medical cannabis. Our veterans deserve the best care possible, and medical cannabis could provide much-needed relief to those suffering from chronic pain, PTSD, and other conditions. It’s time for our leaders to put aside their differences and do what’s right for our veterans.”
We couldn’t agree more, man. Veterans deserve all our respect and support, especially when it comes to their health. Let’s hope this bill gets passed soon so they can get the care they need and deserve. Thanks for reading, peace out!