Lawmakers Unveil Medical Cannabis Research Act

Lawmakers Unveil Medical Cannabis Research Act

By Christopher A. Parrella, J.D., CHC, CPC, CPCO


Bi-Partisan Lawmakers Unveil Medical Cannabis Research Act

Two Florida lawmakers, with the support of more than two dozen bi-partisan members of Congress, have introduced The Medical Cannabis Research Act. The legislation would legalize and make medical marijuana research easier by doing the following:

  • Create a research safe harbor for academic and medical institutions that might want to engage in research opportunities
  • Increase the amount of research grade production of medical cannabis by allowing at least three producers of medical-grade cannabis
  • Break down the barriers between private-sector innovators and the rest of the research community by allowing private sector producers to become eligible for federal research grants/authorizations.

Flanked by fellow lawmakers Reps. Darren Soto (D-FL), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Lou Correa (D-CA), Ryan Costello (R-PA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Barbara Lee (D-CA), U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) noted that cannabis reform hasn’t been taken up since 1978, before he was born.

“Cannabis reform has always faced a Catch-22 in Congress, we can’t change the law without having demonstrated research, but often times we can’t demonstrate research without changing the law. Our bill ends this logjam,” said U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who unveiled the legislation.

Right now, there is a limited supply of cannabis produced that is eligible for research. That’s because for decades a single farm at the University of Mississippi has been the sole producer. Although in 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration enacted a policy aimed at licensing more research cultivators, no further action has been taken.

“This is a complicated issue, a lot of politics, there’s a stigma associated with it,” said Rep. Curbelo. “What we are proposing today is that research institutions and the federal government be allowed to discover, to learn about this substance, potential benefits, potential risks, the truth about marijuana about cannabis should be known and laid out for everyone to see.”

Florida is one of more than two dozen states that have passed laws allowing for and regulating the use of marijuana for medical and/or recreational purposes. However, it’s still illegal to use or possess under federal law.

That’s why earlier in the month, Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) and Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), introduced legislation that would authorize and instruct the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to research medical marijuana for use in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain suffered by American soldiers. Dubbed the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 (H.R. 5520) also has bi-partisan support.

The bill would require the VA to provide Congress with annual reports on their research findings for the next five years.

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