Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican from Maryland, and Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, disagree on legalizing marijuana. Harris rejects it for recreational use and agrees that it should be scaled back as a medicine. Blumenauer is pushing for Pot’s decriminalization.
But there’s one thing the two agree on — that researchers just don’t have enough access to stronger, quality weed, and more producers should be able to grow marijuana for research.
Her bill, passed by the House of Representatives on Monday — having previously been presented at multiple congresses — would ease the path for producers at a time when more and more states are considering decriminalizing marijuana. The House of Representatives passed legislation legalizing marijuana last week, though its fate in the Senate is more uncertain.
Currently, researchers at universities and government agencies can’t just walk to a street corner or park to grab some weed for their studies, as it’s still an illegal substance regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration. For years, the DEA has mandated that researchers can only use marijuana from a single government agency, which is located at the University of Mississippi.
The university maintains what it calls a “secure property” on which it grows marijuana groups in partnership with the National Institute on Drug Abuse. But the weed grown there often has significantly lower THC levels than what’s typically sold on the street, and since there’s only one federally licensed producer in the US, researchers are often hampered by red tape and supply issues.
Blumenauer and Harris’ Medical Marijuana Research Act would allow more producers to qualify as research breeders, expanding the potency and variety of marijuana researchers that researchers have access to. The bill would also make it easier for researchers to apply and be licensed to study cannabis, as well as establish timelines for federal agencies to take action on their applications.
Exactly how many pot producers would be licensed is unclear, but they would have to follow the same state standards as the University of Mississippi, and licensed producers would not also be allowed to sell recreational pot. You would have to grow crops solely for research.
“Although Mr. Blumenauer and I have wildly different views on what good research will bring to the information of healthcare providers and policymakers, we have worked together for years to advance this effort — because far too much of the mainstream discussion of marijuana is bipartisan.” based on anecdotal evidence, not on rigorous and reliable empirical data or studies,” Harris said in a statement to CBS News. “I am very optimistic that we will get this legislation across the finish line so that we can finally break red tape and do quality research to the health effects of marijuana in the real world.”
Harris, a doctor, is opposed to recreational marijuana and has concerns about its medical use, believing the benefits may be overstated and not necessarily scientifically justified. Blumenauer has worked on marijuana policy for decades and believes weed can be used to help children with epilepsy, veterans with PTSD, cancer patients and many more groups of people. They might disagree, but both congressmen agree that good empirical research is needed to provide Americans with more accurate information about the effects of marijuana.
When their teams first began talking to researchers years ago, the researchers encountered the same obstacles — the registration process for studying weed is tedious; the offer is limited and homogeneous; and logistical issues mean the pot arrives late or in poor condition, sometimes even moldy.
So, for the past few congresses, Harris and Blumenauer have spearheaded the task of passing legislation and getting it on the President’s desk. This time they are optimistic that it will work. A similar bill passed the Senate last month.
Supporters of the bill hope to hold talks with their Senate peers and bring the two bills into line. And then they hope to get the legislation on the president’s desk before the end of the current fiscal year.
“The cannabis laws in this country are broken, including those dealing with medical marijuana research,” Blumenauer said as the bill passed the House of Representatives on Monday. “America’s growing cannabis industry operates without the benefits of a robust research program. Instead, we are outsourcing research to Israel, Britain and Canada, to our detriment.”
“An example of this policy failure is our inability to effectively test for cannabis impairments,” he continued. “Employees fail drug tests not because they are impaired, but because they have used recreational or medicinal cannabis at some point in the past month. This is just a symptom of our short-sighted, illogical, and destructive policies. I am willing to work, my friends in the Senate, to reconcile the differences between this legislation and the Senate-passed Cannabidiol and Marijuana Research Expansion Act.”