The U.S. House has once again approved legislation to expand cannabis research, sending it to the Senate for consideration.
Lawmakers passed the bipartisan Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act July 26 with 325 votes, according to a press release from the office of Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., one of the bill’s primary sponsors.
The legislation, also sponsored by Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., aims to encourage research on cannabis and its potential benefits by streamlining the application process for researchers and removing U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) barriers, according to the release.
“Research is a foundational element for cannabis policy,” Blumenauer, who is also the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said in a public statement. “At a time when there are four million registered medical marijuana patients and many more likely to self-medicate, it is crucial that researchers are able to fully study the health benefits of cannabis. For too long, the federal government has stood in the way of science and progress, creating barriers for researchers obtaining resources and approval to study cannabis. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation is an important first step to changing that.”
The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act largely mirrors the Senate’s Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act, which Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, filed in March.
The U.S. Senate passed that legislation March 24.
The House’s Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act builds on a separate cannabis research proposal in that chamber called the Medical Marijuana Research Act, which the House approved in April.
The new version of the research bill does not include a provision previously included in the Medical Marijuana Research Act that would have allowed researchers to access cannabis from state-legal dispensaries for their studies. It would, however, ease the process for researchers to apply for approval to study cannabis, and would require the U.S. attorney general to either approve a cannabis research application or request additional information from the applicant.
The FDA would be required to develop cannabis-derived medications, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) would be charged with approving manufacturers seeking to produce cannabis-derived drugs that have received FDA approval.
The bill also directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to investigate the health benefits and potential risks of cannabis.
“As a physician who has conducted NIH-sponsored research, I am pleased that this bill has finally passed and that scientists will be able to research what medical marijuana can and cannot do,” Harris said in a public statement. “While there is evidence to suggest that medical marijuana may be beneficial in the treatment of some diseases like glaucoma and epilepsy, only scientific research will prove the veracity of the many claims regarding efficacy for other diseases. Despite lacking much scientific research, over three dozen states have already legalized medical marijuana, and the American public deserves to know the effect modern marijuana has on the human body. While I support additional research for the use of medical marijuana, my position on recreational marijuana remains the same – I categorically oppose it."