The usually progressive Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Wednesday that she broke ranks with fellow Democrats to vote against allowing federal doctors to discuss medical marijuana with patients because the move was “premature.”
Mrs. Wasserman Schultz, who also serves as chairwoman of the National Democratic Committee, was one of just 18 House Democrats who joined 204 Republicans in a vote last week to defeat a measure that would have authorized Veterans Administration doctors in states that have approved marijuana for medical or recreational use to talk to patients about the drug.
She said she sided with Republicans because she was waiting for the results of a medical study on using marijuana to treat post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
“There was a study that was just commissioned to review the effectiveness marijuana has on PTSD patients. So I thought it was premature to adopt that amendments before the results of the study,” Mrs. Wasserman Schultz said a breakfast meeting with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
She insisted the legislation narrowly addressed the treatment of service members suffering form PTSD. “It was for PTSD,” she said.
Proponents of the legislation argued for the use of marijuana to treat PTSD and traumatic brain injuries suffered by service members, but it would have let VA doctors talk about the drug for treating any condition.
“I just don’t buy her excuse,” said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, a group that advocates for the legalizing pot. “There has to be something else going on there.”
He urged Mrs. Wasserman Schultz to “just leave medical marijuana decisions up to doctors rather than Washington politicians.”
Mr. Angell said that Mrs. Wasserman Schultz was an “outlier” on the issue both among Democrats and in her state, where a recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 88 percent of voters support legalizing medical marijuana.
The issue will be on the Florida ballot in November.
“It could be that she is one of those extremely cautions Democrats or she may be fearing campaign attack ads that will never come,” Mr. Angell said. “She’s going to look very silly when the voters of her state vote overwhelmingly this November to legalize medical marijuana.”