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New bipartisan effort could clear the way for nationwide medical marijuana research

The House passed the Medical Marijuana Research Act on Monday with only 75 reps voting against it.

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On Monday, April 4, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would expedite more research into the use of medical marijuana.

The Medical Marijuana Research Act, sponsored by the unlikely duo of pro-legalization Rep. Earl Blumenauer and prohibitionist Rep. Andy Harris passed by a 343-75 vote. 

“The cannabis laws in this country are broken, including those that deal with the medical research of marijuana. America’s growing cannabis industry operates without the benefit of a robust research program,” Blumenauer said in a press release.

Blumenauer expounded on his argument, stating that because of these policy failures, employees are failing drug tests, not because they are impaired, but because they used recreational or medical marijuana in the last month.

“This is just one symptom of our shortsighted, illogical, and destructive set of policies,” he wrote.

Passage of this bill arrives just three days after the House approved a broad marijuana legalization bill largely along party lines.

On Friday, April 1, Democrats, with some Republican support, voted 220-204 to remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances, moving to catch up to the states.

Only 18 states, as well as the District of Columbia and two territories, allow adult, recreational use of the drug. 

The broad legislation passed on Friday would not only remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances, but also impose a tax on marijuana sales to fund programs intended to serve communities harmed by past policies that were tough on drug use and distribution. 

The latest cannabis bill approved on Monday would smooth the process for researchers seeking to conduct medical marijuana studies. It would also direct the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that there is an adequate supply of marijuana available for qualified scientists to use. 

Lawmakers argued that it is in consumers’ best interest for researchers to learn more about the use of this substance for medical use, as 37 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, allow use for that purpose. 

“These actions highlight the need for increased research about safety and efficacy of the marijuana products being consumed by millions of Americans,” said Rep. Frank Pallone, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman.

Even lawmakers who oppose recreational marijuana recognized that the federal government should allow research into medical marijuana since the majority of states already permit it.

“As a physician, I realize that if we’re going to have medical marijuana legal… in over three dozen states, we really ought to do research on it to see what it’s used for and what it can’t be used for,” said Rep. Andy Harris.

The Medical Marijuana Research Act would remove barriers for researchers seeking to apply and get approved to study cannabis. It would also set clear deadlines for federal agencies to act on their applications and make it easier for scientists to modify their research protocols without having to seek federal approval. 

In late 2020, both the House and Senate passed earlier versions of their respective cannabis research bills, but none ever made it to former President Donald Trump’s desk. It still remains unclear whether the two chambers will be able to agree on provisions and send unified legislation to President Joe Biden. 

Following the House vote on Monday, Blumenauer said he is ready and looking forward to working with his Senate colleagues to “reconcile differences between this legislation and the Senate-passed Cannabidiol and Marijuana Research Expansion Act.” 











 

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