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Several Senate Republican members shockingly revolted against advancing a bipartisan bill which would allow the Veterans Affairs Department to perform studies and clinical trials on the use of cannabis for treating chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A bipartisan bill aiming to help veterans was unfortunately crushed this past April 2023 (1). In a shocking vote, 57-42, the GOP killed Veterans Affairs Medicinal Cannabis Research Bill (S. 326) (2), just missing the 60 votes needed to move forward. Just before the vote, Senator Jon Cornyn reported that there was a Senate Republican policy lunch where a debate occurred and may have changed several Republican members support.
Critics of the bill feared over political concerns, such as the recognition that if the bill succeeded in the Senate, it would potentially be perceived as a big victory for Senator Job Tester, a Democrat who chairs the Veterans Affairs Committee and is also up for reelection in the red state of Montana (1). Going into the vote, Democrats were expecting to come out with a win for veterans because the legislation had bipartisan support in committee.
The bill was supported by 8 Republicans, which included the top Republican on the committee, Senator Jerry Moran.
Cornyn explained there are concerns about the methodology of the proposed clinical trials because (1) “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.” The senator also mentioned that members of his political party did not have “assurances” that they would be able to offer amendments to the legislation and that there were questions about whatever version of the bill that passes, would be taken up in the GOP-controlled House.
Senator Cornyn did imply that negotiations over the bill would continue and the Senate may look into picking it back up soon. He referred to the recent vote as “hitting the pause button” (1).
Not long after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, stated that it was “regrettable” about the bill being blocked and hoped there would be talks to revive it for it to pass.