Following the Senate’s rejection of a bill last week to require the Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct a study of veterans who use medical cannabis, Sen. John Tester (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, told Military.com that the measure, and other veteran-focused bills, “may all be dead.”
“At this moment in time, there is not a specific path forward. I just don’t like it when the Senate votes against their veterans. That’s what happened yesterday. Forty-one of them did.” — Tester to Military.com
In a procedural vote last Wednesday, the Senate voted 57-42 to advance the cannabis bill, three votes short of the 60 required to pass.
The bill, which included provisions related to the VA caregiver program and home ownership for Native American veterans, would have required Veterans Affairs to conduct a “large scale” observational study of veterans who use cannabis and have chronic pain or post-traumatic stress disorder to see how it affects their health and whether those veterans reduce their use of opiates or alcohol.
Following the observational study, VA officials would have reported back to Congress about the study results and whether the agency would move forward with a clinical trial looking at how cannabis use affects chronic pain and PTSD.
“If we’ve got veterans out there that are able to use cannabis and have it deal positively with PTSD and chronic pain, who am I to say no?” Tester told Military.com. “Because pain kills. I mean, it literally does kill.”
The measure had bipartisan sponsorship from Tester and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Republicans on the Veterans Affairs, which had unanimously approved the bill in February, viewed the bill as a sensible way to examine the effects of cannabis, which many veterans are already consuming.
A study published in March by researchers at the University of North Texas Health Science Center and College of Applied Health Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found one in 10 military veterans reported using cannabis over the past year.
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