Only days after members passed sweeping legislation to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, the House of Representatives plans to vote on a separate bill that would allow cannabis research using state-licensed marijuana products. Under current regulations, researchers must obtain cannabis for federally-sanctioned study from a single cultivation operation maintained by the University of Mississippi.

The bill, the Marijuana Research Act of 2019 (H.R. 3797), was introduced in the House by Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon last year. Under the measure, a process would be established for approved scientists to access state-licensed cannabis products for their research. The bill is expected to be voted on by members of the House under a suspension of the rules, which would prevent further amendments and require approval by a two-thirds majority.

Bill Has Bipartisan Support

“As momentum grows in our effort to end the failed prohibition of cannabis, we also need to address failed drug laws like the ones that make it extremely difficult for researchers and doctors to study cannabis. With some form of cannabis legal in nearly every state, it’s inexcusable that the federal government is still blocking qualified researchers from advancing the scientific knowledge of cannabis,” Blumenauer said after the measure was approved by a House committee in September. “The bipartisan support of our legislation in today’s committee markup is an important step in removing unnecessary barriers to medical cannabis research and ensuring that patients, clinicians, and consumers can fully understand the benefits and risks of cannabis.”

“This proposed regulatory change is necessary and long overdue,” Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said in a press release at the time. “In fact, NORML submitted comments to the US Federal Register in April explicitly calling for this change.”

“Legislative action is necessary in this arena because the DEA has proven time and time again that it is not an honest broker in this process,”  Armentano added. “Despite promising over four years ago to expand the pool of federal licensees permitted to provide cannabis for clinical research, the agency has steadfastly refused to do so — leaving scientists with woefully inadequate supplies of cannabis and cannabis products available for human studies. The reality that most high-schoolers have easier access to cannabis than do our nation’s top scientists is the height of absurdity and an indictment of the current system.”

The Feds Have Bunk-Ass Weed

Researchers have often criticized the marijuana procured from the federal government for research, saying that it is not comparable to the cannabis available to patients in both the regulated and illicit markets. The federal government’s current marijuana menu contains only six different types of cannabis in joints, all with less than 7% THC and less than 1% CBD.

“Rather than compelling scientists to access marijuana products of questionable quality manufactured by a limited number of federally licensed producers, federal regulators should allow investigators to access the cannabis and cannabis-infused products that are currently being produced in the legal marketplace by the multitude of state-sanctioned growers and retailers,” Armentano said. “Doing so will not only facilitate and expedite clinical cannabis research in the United States and provide important data regarding the safety and efficacy of real-world products, but it will also bring about a long-overdue end to decades of DEA stonewalling and interference with respect to the advancement of our scientific understanding of the cannabis plant.”

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