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House of Representatives Passes Bill to Expand Cannabis Research

Monday saw the House of Representatives pass a bill to broaden medical cannabis research access. It was the second approval of federal cannabis legislation in the last week. 

The Medical Marijuana Research Act is the name of the bill. It passed with ease on a vote by both parties, 343 to 75. 

Advocates like the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Congressman Ed Blumenauer, said it would avail crucial opportunities to U.S.-based researchers who have often been hamstrung by the federal government’s prohibition on cannabis. 

Blumenauer is speaking ahead of Monday’s election. said in a tweet that the bill would establish a framework, without which “research is outsourced to other countries-a missed opportunity for the industry, and millions of Americans who consume cannabis products.”

The bill, first introduced in the House in October of last year, “establishes a new, separate registration process to facilitate medical marijuana research,” according to an official summary of the measure. 

The Controlled Substances Act would be amended to make cannabis legal in the United States. 

The bill would direct the “Drug Enforcement Administration to register (1) practitioners to conduct medical marijuana research, and (2) manufacturers and distributors to supply marijuana for such research,” and require the Department of Health and Human Services to “produce marijuana through the National Institute on Drug Abuse Drug Supply Program and implement a specialized process for supplying marijuana products available through state-authorized marijuana programs to researchers until manufacturers and distributors can provide a sufficient supply of marijuana for medical research.”

The bill received broad bipartisan support as it was approved by nearly 12 Democratic and Republican cosponsors. 

Republican Representative Dave Joyce, Ohio, was one such cosponsor. He tweeted support Monday evening.

“For the sake of patients across the country, as well as USA’s medical superiority across the globe, we can’t allow outdated federal policy to keep obstructing legitimate medical research,” Joyce said.

The legislation now heads to the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate along with another major cannabis bill passed by the U.S. House in the past week. 

The House of Democrats, which also holds the majority, approved Friday’s bill to remove cannabis from Controlled Substances Act. This would effectively end federal prohibitions on marijuana. 

The bill, also known as Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act, was passed by a large party line vote of 220-204.

The Senate prospects look dim for it, but Democrats in the higher chamber suggest that they’d prefer to vote on their own legalization bill. 

Advocates urged the Senate to follow the House’s lead and get something down.

“At a time when the majority of states regulate marijuana use and when the majority of voters of all political ideologies support legalization, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or cultural perspective for federal lawmakers to continue to support the ‘flat Earth’ failed federal prohibitionist policies of the past,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano told Chronic NewsLast week. 

“It is time for members of the Senate to follow the House’s lead and take appropriate actions to comport federal law with majority public opinion and with the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.”

On Monday, following the House’s vote on the medical cannabis research bill, Armentano said that the legislation’s “common-sense regulatory changes are necessary and long overdue.”

“Currently, the limited variety of cannabis cultivars accessible to federally licensed researchers does not represent the type or quality of cannabis products currently available in legal, statewide markets. The reality that nearly one-half of U.S. adults have legal access to this multitude of cannabis products, but our nation’s top scientists do not, is the height of absurdity and it is an indictment of the current system,” Armentano said, as quoted by Forbes.