U.S.: House, Senate Bills Aim To Remove Barriers To Marijuana Research
Bipartisan, Bicameral Medical Marijuana Research Legislation Introduced in House and Senate
By Steve Elliott
There's a major development in federal cannabis legislation this week. Congressmen Andy Harris, M.D. (R-MD), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), and Sam Farr (D-CA) will be introducing the Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2016. This bill heeds the calls of the medical research community to address the burdensome processes that currently impede legitimate medical research on marijuana.
The bill is a bipartisan and bicameral solution that removes barriers inhibiting medical marijuana research. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) are introducing a similar bill in the Senate.
“As a physician who has conducted NIH sponsored research, I can’t stress enough how critical this legislation is to the scientific community," said Dr. Harris. "Our drug policy was never intended to act as an impediment to conducting legitimate medical research.
"We need empirical scientific evidence to clearly determine whether marijuana has medicinal benefits and, if so, how it would be used most effectively," Dr. Harris said. "This legislation is crucial to that effort, because it removes the unnecessary administrative barriers that deter qualified researchers from rigorously studying medical marijuana.”
“Despite the fact that over 200 million Americans now have legal access to some form of medical marijuana, federal policy is blocking science. It’s outrageous,” said Congressman Blumenauer. “We owe it to patients and their families to allow for the research physicians need to understand marijuana’s benefits and risks and determine proper use and dosage. The federal government should get out of the way to allow for this long overdue research.”
“There are countless reports of marijuana’s medicinal benefits, but patients, doctors, pharmacists, and policymakers must have more to rely on than anecdotal evidence,” said Congressman Griffith. “Removing the barriers that prevent further research on marijuana’s medicinal benefits and possible side effects is the right thing to do, plain and simple.”
“This bill is about helping people. As more states pass their own medical marijuana laws, it’s time for Congress to reexamine federal policy," said Congressman Farr. "This bill does just that by supporting research so policy decisions about the role of medical marijuana are based on science and facts instead of rhetoric.”
The Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2016 addresses two major barriers currently faced by researchers who wish to conduct legitimate medical research with marijuana, a Schedule I drug.
First, it creates a new, less cumbersome registration process specifically for marijuana, reducing approval wait times, costly security measures, and additional, unnecessary layers of protocol review.
Second, once researchers have been approved to conduct this research, this bill makes it easier for those researchers to obtain the marijuana they need for their studies through reforms in both production and distribution regulations.
To this end, the bill also allows for the private manufacturing and distribution of marijuana solely for research purposes. Currently, the only marijuana available to be used in research legally comes from a single contract the National Institute on Drug Abuse holds with the University of Mississippi. The federal government's entire supply of research cannabis is grown at the University's farm in Oxford, Miss.
Photo of Senator Andy Harris, M.D.: Bill Clark / Roll Call