A new bill sponsored by U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz and 40 bipartisan co-sponsors called the Medical Cannabis Research Act is scheduled for a Sept 13 vote by the U.S. House panel overseeing federal drug enforcement. If the legislation is passed, the government would have to allow more licensing for marijuana cultivation for research-related purposes.
The University of Mississippi has been the only site in the country to cultivate marijuana for research purposes for more than 50 years, Forbes noted. Many researchers and scientists say that the product from this facility is very low-quality compared to marijuana sold at dispensaries.
“The federal government should not stand in the way of collaboration that can help people live better lives,” said Geatz. “This will be the first time that a cannabis reform bill will make it through the Judiciary Committee during Republican control of the Congress, ever.”
While some amendments to the legislation are expected, Gaetz speculates that they will just be technical amendments. The legislation does prevent people with a drug conviction (felony or misdemeanor) from cultivation operations or being part of any research. It also includes a provision that requires the approved manufacturers to be in good standing with local law enforcement groups and have written proof of such.
Michael Collins of the Drug Policy Alliance Office of National Affairs said, “Precedent is the biggest concern. If the committee is already on the record saying we ban people from participating in this sector of this industry, that’s going to possibly win the day going forward. While the bill’s consideration represents progress, it’s a drop in the ocean given what we need to do to end federal prohibition and repair the harms of the drug war.”
In order for Gaetz to get the necessary GOP support, the language had to be presented in a specific way. He said, “For many of my Republican colleagues, the most difficult marijuana reform vote to take is the first one. I’m trying to create the most comfortable setting for marijuana skeptics to do something right by their constituents, and that process can yield imperfect legislation that is directionally correct.”
Justin Strekal of NORML said, “The Medical Cannabis Research Act would, in theory, dramatically expand access to medical grade cannabis for researchers for scientific purposes. While the bill is imperfect as it would rely on known prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions to oversee an overly restrictive permitting process, its passage would be a step in the right direction to lay the foundation for future research into marijuana’s most beneficial properties.”