On Wednesday, Senate Republicans surprisingly voted against a bipartisan bill that would require the VA to investigate the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis for veterans with PTSD and chronic pain. The bill was intended to create more research-based evidence on the use of marijuana as a treatment option.
Unfortunately, the vote on the procedural measure did not reach the required 60 votes and instead amounted to 57-42.
Following a tense discussion in the Republican policy lunch in the Senate, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas initiated a vote, leading to the resulting action.
Those in opposition to the bill noted some potentially severe issues related to the bill’s substance, procedure, and politics.
Especially considering if it passes through the Senate, it could be seen as a major victory for Senator Jon Tester, who is currently chairing the Veterans Affairs Committee while campaigning in Montana – a largely Republican-leaning state.
Tester is running for re-election next year.
Democratic lawmakers had anticipated a positive outcome for the vote as it had received unanimous bipartisan approval in the committee. They are planning to conclude deliberations next week and pass the motion.
Eight GOP Senators, led by Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, voted in favor of the measure; making it a bipartisan success.
Senator Cornyn expressed said there was concern about the system of proposed clinical tests because “this retrospective study would be done strictly through volunteers who would come forward and talk about their experience with marijuana and PTSD,” and “it depends on people to self-select and we don’t know how that would skew the results.”
Senator Cornyn also explained that the Republicans had doubts about having their amendments accepted to the bill and whether it would be passed in the Republican-dominated House.
Cornyn suggested negotiations over the legislation will continue and the Senate may take it up back up soon. He described the vote Wednesday as “hitting the pause button.”
Senator Chuck Schumer expressed his regret that the bill had been blocked and mentioned that he hoped for productive talks to bring it back to life after the vote.
There is evidence to suggest that cannabis may be helpful in treating symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). as some studies have found that cannabis use can reduce anxiety, improve sleep, and decrease the frequency and intensity of flashbacks and nightmares in people with PTSD.