Tester, Sullivan Lead Bipartisan Bill to Explore Medicinal Cannabis as an Alternative Treatment for Veterans

Senators’ bill pushes the Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct research on the health effects of medicinal cannabis for veterans experiencing chronic pain and PTSD

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) introduced bipartisan legislation today that pushes the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct research on the health effects of medicinal cannabis for veterans experiencing chronic pain and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“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,” said Tester. “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. This is an important step in taking care of those who answered the call to duty, and I’m glad to join Senator Sullivan in this effort.”

“Many of our brave men and women in uniform suffer from unseen wounds of war as a result of their sacrifices on behalf of our country, wounds that often manifest in post-traumatic stress. We owe it to these courageous service members, past and present, to explore and better understand new remedies for these mental health challenges that are safe and effective, treatments that could give our suffering veterans hope,” said Sullivan. “Medicinal cannabis is already in use by thousands of veterans across the country, but we don’t yet have the data we need to understand the potential benefits and side effects associated with this alternative therapy. I’m glad to reintroduce this legislation with Chairman Tester, directing the VA to investigate how cannabis use can affect veterans with post-traumatic stress and chronic pain.”

The Senators’ VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act authorizes VA to implement a comprehensive research plan, including series of clinical trials that assess the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain and/or PTSD. It also expands cannabis research into other factors related to veterans’ health, such as improvements to mood and/or social functioning, impacts on other substance use, and changes to overall quality of life. It additionally requires the clinical trials examine the effects of different forms, potencies, and methods of cannabis administration while ensuring veterans’ health and safety is put first and foremost throughout the research.

Numerous Veterans Service Organizations have applauded the Senators’ bipartisan effort to explore the health effect of medicinal cannabis for veterans:

“The VFW supports the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2023,” said Pat Murray, Director, National Legislative Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). “VFW members tell us that medicinal cannabis has helped them cope with chronic pain and other service-connected health conditions. They cannot receive these services at VA because of VA’s bureaucratic hurdles. VA uses evidence-based clinical guidelines to manage other pharmacological treatments of post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, and substance use disorder because medical trials have found them effective. VA must expand research on the efficacy of non-traditional medical therapies, such as medicinal cannabis and other holistic approaches.”

“Since 2017, IAVA has made it one of our top priorities to empower veterans who are calling for the medicinal use of cannabis,” said Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). “Eighty-eight percent of IAVA members support the research of cannabis for medicinal purposes and veterans consistently and passionately have communicated that cannabis offers effective help in tackling some of the most pressing injuries we face when returning from war. We thank Senators Jon Tester and Dan Sullivan for reintroducing the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act in order to increase that research and reduce the stigma at VA.”