In late July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 8454, the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act (Research Expansion Act). A similar version of the bill, S. 253, passed the Senate earlier this year. The bill is expected to head to President Biden after the bills are reconciled.
Among other things, the bill would ease limitations on medical research on cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD). Specifically, the bill would:
- Direct the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to register practitioners to conduct cannabis and CBD research and manufacturers to supply cannabis for research purposes. The bill expressly allows the DEA to register manufacturers and distributors of cannabis or CBD for the purpose of commercial production of a drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Require the DEA to assess whether there is an adequate and uninterrupted supply of cannabis for research purposes.
- Permit registered entities to manufacture, distribute, dispense, or possess marijuana or CBD for the purposes of medical research.
- Clarify that physicians do not violate the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) when they discuss the potential harms and benefits of cannabis and CBD with patients.
- Direct the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) to coordinate with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other agencies to report on the “therapeutic potential” of cannabis for conditions such as epilepsy, the impact of cannabis on adolescent brain development, and cannabis’ effects on the ability to operate a motor vehicle.
Congress continues to debate various measures to legalize and deschedule cannabis, most notably the recently introduced Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. The Research Expansion Act presents an important step in the process of federal regulation of the nation’s cannabis industry. This will be the first cannabis-related bill to reach the Oval Office. While the president has not expressed support for full legalization, he has signaled his support for medical cannabis research.