Marijuana Research Bill Approved in House Judiciary Committee
Markup of the Republican-backed bill represents first time the committee has considered marijuana policy reform legislation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation designed to facilitate increased federally-approved research into the potential medical benefits of marijuana. The Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018 (H.R. 5634), which was originally introduced by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and currently has 40 cosponsors, passed in a voice vote.
The bill would increase the number of federally-approved research cannabis manufacturers from one to three. It would also create a pathway for state-approved private cannabis cultivators to provide material to researchers, and requires the Attorney General to annually assess whether the approved supply is adequate to meet research requests. In addition, the legislation clarifies that medical professionals in the Dept. of Veterans Affairs are able to inform their patients about cannabis trials, receive information about ongoing research, and may take part in such research.
This vote represents the first time that the House Judiciary Committee has been willing to consider marijuana policy reform legislation.
“The experiences of the states with medical cannabis laws and the millions of patients helped by those programs have proven that cannabis is an effective medicine, but federal research has always lagged behind. This markup represents a big step toward increasing our base of knowledge about cannabis, but more importantly, it shows that Congress is willing to look at the issue fairly and scientifically,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “We commend Rep. Gaetz for introducing this bill and for working so hard to make sure it was seriously considered by the Judiciary Committee.”
Despite the overall benefits provided by the bill, advocates are concerned about several compromise provisions that were added to the original language. A ban on people with marijuana convictions being involved in studies would prevent many of the most skilled and knowledgeable individuals from adding their expertise to research efforts and would disproportionately impact people of color. Legitimate study would be further impeded by requiring production facilities to be pre-approved by law enforcement, who have traditionally opposed efforts to increase research into cannabis.
“The restrictions contained in the Medical Cannabis Research Act are well-meaning but totally unnecessary and do nothing to improve public safety or research efficacy,” Smith continued. “We are hopeful that reasonable debate and Rep. Gaetz’s leadership on this issue will convince lawmakers to remove them before passing this bill.”