In a move seen as bolstering support for federal marijuana reform, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation that would pave the way for medical marijuana research. The Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2019, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would amend the Controlled Substances Act to establish a new, separate registration process for medical marijuana research, and allow for the manufacture and distribution of cannabis products.
Similar bipartisan legislation – the Cannabidiol and Marijuana Research Act – has been introduced in the U.S. Senate, as well.
The federal government has all but halted research into the medical benefits of marijuana. Despite a majority of sates legalizing some form of cannabis, and ongoing public debates over the medical benefits of cannabis, there is only one source of marijuana for legal research. That source is the Universi9ty of Mississippi, which holds the only such contract awarded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The Drug Enforcement Administration has authority to approve applications for growers that wish to supply medical marijuana researchers, but has failed to act on more than two-dozen applications that have been pending for several years.
“Forty-seven states have legalized some form of cannabis, yet the federal government is still getting in the way of further progress on the potential for research,” said Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-author of the Medical Marijuana Research Act.
“As a physician who has conducted NIH-sponsored research, I cannot stress enough how critical this legislation is to the scientific community. Our drug policy was never intended to act as an impediment to conducting legitimate medical research,” said Rep. Andy Harris, M.D. (R-MD), another co-author of the bill.
Also signing on to sponsor the Medical Marijuana Research Act are Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Rob Bishop (R-UT). The bill’s authors describe it as addressing “the burdensome processes that impede legitimate medical research on marijuana.”
“We all know that marijuana has medical benefits, but the federal government has continued to get in the way of further medical research that would help us better understand the effects,” said Rep. Dingell. “Removing barriers that prevent research will help to improve our understanding of medical marijuana and provide additional treatment options for millions of patients.”
Here’s what the Medical Marijuana Research Act proposes:
- Creation of a new, less cumbersome registration process, reducing approval wait times, costly security measures and eliminating unnecessary layers of protocol review.
- Reform of production and distribution regulations to make it easier for researchers to obtain cannabis from private firms that manufacture and distribute cannabis for medical research.
The Senate bill, Cannabidiol and Marijuana Research Act, is more expansive. In addition to encouraging scientific and medical research on cannabis and its compounds, including CBD, it would allow physicians to discuss the pros and cons of treatments involving cannabis derivatives, such as CBD. Sponsors include Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND).
Passage of the Medical Marijuana Research Act and/or the Cannabidiol and Marijuana Research Act could generate greater exposure and understanding of medical applications for cannabis.
Absent changes in federal law, cannabis manufacturers, distributors and researchers find it difficult to access marijuana banking solutions quickly. This has proven to be the case even in states that authorize the manufacture and sales of cannabis products.
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