Just days after voting to legalize cannabis at the federal level, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a separate bill to promote research on cannabis, including allowing scientists access to cannabis sold in legal dispensaries .
The unlikely duo of pro-legalization Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer and prohibitionist Republican Representative Andy Harris are the main sponsors of the legislation.
Cannabis research Bill
Cannabis laws in this country are broken, especially those dealing with research,” Blumenauer told the House before the vote. This is a limited bill that corrects one of the many cannabis laws that are being broken. And I want to hasten to add that this in no way negates the need to move forward with other areas of legalization… But it is in some ways a fundamental issue. Wherever you are, there is no reason for the federal government to impede this critical research.
Harris, for his part, pointed out that he and Blumenauer probably disagree on the legalization of cannabis ; but “we agree 100% that we need to do this research,” he said.
Now, unfortunately, because of the public policy we have put in place with cannabis, and its classification, [the research] just couldn’t be done,” said Andy Harris, who is also a physician. “You can’t do it under the current classification…it’s because of us. It shouldn’t have taken so long to get to this point.
Currently, in the United States, researchers have only been able to study cannabis ;if it grows at the University of Mississippi under the federal government . The product cultivated there, however;reflects very little of what consumers consume on the legal market, with a quality more resembling hemp.
Unfortunately, this [federally produced] cannabis is distinct from what is commercially available in state legal clinics, such as in my state of Oregon,” explained Representative Greg Walden. Well, it means that we have little or no data on the actual health effects of products in states that have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational purposes.
“We need research that reflects the reality of what’s on the market,” he said.
The Bill to where?
The new bill passed by the House requires the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to authorize additional cannabis producers and to ensure that there is no limit on the number of additional entities that can be registered to grow cannabis for research purposes. Also, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should submit a report to Congress within five years of enactment; to review the results of federal cannabis studies ;and recommend whether they warrant a change in the classification of cannabis at the federal level.
HHS should also allow legal cannabis producers to provide researchers with cannabis from dispensaries.
The future legislation would also establish a streamlined registration process for researchers interested in studying cannabis; in part by reducing approval times, minimizing costly safety requirements, and eliminating additional protocol review steps.