Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Medical Marijuana Research Act, a bill that will make it much easier for researchers to study cannabis and receive medical-grade cannabis from state growers (along with federal growers which is currently accepted).
Along with allowing researchers to study cannabis through state programs, the Medical Marijuana Research Act simplifies the complicated licensing process researchers must go through to research cannabis and provides more access to medical-grade cannabis for research purposes (currently quality and quantity of cannabis for research purposes is lacking).
Additionally, the act would result in a report detailing new findings regarding cannabis’ benefits from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
One of the bill’s cosponsors is Maryland Representative Andy Harris, known in cannabis circles for his vehement and disruptive opposition to cannabis—most notably with the infamous “Harris Rider” which prevents Washington D.C. from having a commercial cannabis industry to this day.
But Harris has been encouraging research into cannabis for years. In a 2017 Rolling Stone profile titled, “Why An Anti-Pot Lawmaker Is Pushing For Marijuana Research,” Harris explained how drug laws surrounding cannabis should not limit research. Harris’ motivations for supporting cannabis research however, are informed by his belief that the research would not bode well for cannabis.
“As a physician, I believe it’s going to show it’s really not helpful in a whole lot of diseases,” Harris told Rolling Stone. “And in fact what will be shown to be helpful—as has been [shown] in a lot of the diseases where it’s useful—are actually not the whole marijuana plant but purified components of marijuana, like CBD or THC.”
Back in 2019 when the bill was introduced, Harris said the following in a statement: “As a physician who has conducted NIH-sponsored research, I cannot stress enough how critical this legislation is to the scientific community. Our drug policy was never intended to act as an impediment to conducting legitimate medical research. If we are going to label marijuana as medicine, we need to conduct the same rigorous scientific research on efficacy and safety that every other FDA-approved treatment undergoes. This legislation will facilitate that research by removing the unnecessary administrative barriers that deter qualified researchers from thoroughly studying medical marijuana.”
On the floor of the House, Blumenhauer advocated again for the importance of the Medical Marijuana Research Act.
“The cannabis laws in this country are broken, especially those that deal with research. It’s illegal everywhere in America to drive under the influence of alcohol, cannabis, or any other substance. But we do not have a good test for impairment because we can’t study it,” Blumenhauer said. “This is insane and we need to change it.”
The passing of the Medical Marijuana Research Act comes just a week after the House passed the MORE Act (also co-sponsored by Blumenhauer) which would, among other things, no longer make cannabis a Schedule I drug making it no longer federally illegal.
On the House floor, Blumenhauer cited the effect the bill would have amid growing cannabis reform: “At a time when there are four million registered medical cannabis patients, and many more likely self-medicate, when there are 91 percent of Americans supporting medical cannabis, it’s time to change the system. Our bill will do precisely that.”
On Twitter, Harris praised the passing of the Medical Marijuana Research Act while criticizing the MORE Act.
“Today’s passage of the Medical Marijuana Research Act is a far better approach than last week’s marijuana legislation that would legalize this substance across the U.S.,” Harris tweeted. “Our bill will allow for rigorous and reputable clinical research on the efficacy of medical marijuana, as well as other potential uses. It’s critical we do the research first, because as a physician, anything that’s scientifically proven useful I want for my patients.”
Illustration by Kathy Wyche