21 June 2016
Marijuana opponents, supporters unite over bill to reduce medical marijuana research obstacles.
An unexpected coalition of Congress members have teamed up to push forward a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would remove a slew of medical marijuana research roadblocks in the United States, as reported by The Washington Post.
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) is one of Congress’s chief marijuana legalization opponents, having personally led efforts to block legal marijuana shops in Washington DC in 2014. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), on the other hand, has been one of the country’s leading marijuana reform champions in recent years.
Although the two congressmen differ pretty significantly on marijuana policy, they’re teaming up this week to support the bipartisan Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2016, which would overhaul federal marijuana policies to make it easier for scientists to access marijuana for research purposes.
Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) will introduce the bill in the House of Representatives, and a similar bill will be introduced in the Senate by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and others.
“As a physician who has conducted (National Institutes of Health) sponsored research, I can’t stress enough how critical this legislation is to the scientific community,” said Harris, a former Johns Hopkins Hospital physician, in a statement. “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. This legislation is crucial to that effort because it removes the unnecessary administrative barriers that deter qualified researchers from rigorously studying medical marijuana.”
The new measure would allow private manufacturing and distribution of marijuana for research purposes. Currently, scientists can only obtain marijuana for research purposes from the University of Mississippi’s cultivation center, which has the nation’s sole contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as reported by the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
The new bill would also ease wait times for marijuana research approval, and eliminate certain costly security measures and various protocol reviews.
“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,” Blumenauer said in a statement. “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.”
Twenty-five states and DC have already legalized medical marijuana for qualified patients, and a number more states have legalized the medical use of nonpsychoactive cannabis oil.
According to a recent Quinnipiac University Poll, 89 percent of Americans favor allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if prescribed by a doctor. Just 9 percent of voters oppose medical marijuana access for qualified patients.