Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon has been called Marijuana’s top legal advocate. In opposition, Representative Andy Harris of Maryland, a conservative republican, was successful in introducing the provision that would block the loosening of Washington D.C’s marijuana laws – while quickly introduced him as one of marijuana’s biggest opponents.
But even these two lawmakers agree on one thing: more research into the drug’s medicinal uses is necessary to move the medical marijuana debate forward. So believe it or not, these two lawmakers with completely different views on cannabis are joining forces to introduce legislation to ease the process for scientists studying the drug.
“Statutory, regulatory, bureaucratic, and cultural barriers have paralyzed science and threatened the integrity of research freedom in this area,” according to a Brookings Institute report. This same fall report called for the US government to end its “war on medical marijuana research.” Because of federal government roadblocks to research the Schedule I substance, the use of cannabis for medical treatment is happening in half of our states based mostly on limited or anecdotal science. And this is not good in anyone’s eyes – opponents and advocated, alike.
What Makes Research So Hard?
It takes something like seven years to get Federal approval to conduct cannabis research. Only one facility in Mississippi has the federal go-ahead to produce marijuana used for research.
Although half of the states in America have legalized medical marijuana, yet it remains federally illegal. Furthermore, it’s classification as a Schedule 1 substance by the DEA, makes it more difficult to get federal approval to conduct research.
Will This New Unlikely Team Change This?
The bill that this unlikely duo has teamed up to advocate for would boost medical marijuana research. It would allow for more research to be done, and make it a speedier process as well.
The Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2016 would remove many of the legal and bureaucratic hurdles that block researchers attempting to obtain and use medical marijuana in clinical trials. The bill would require that the Justice Department approve the research applications that meet certain conditions. Furthermore, they would have to respond to applications within two months.
Finally, the bill would even allow for more growers to produce marijuana for studies into its medicinal effects (including side effects).
Why Research Is Attractive To Even Medical Cannabis Opponents
Even in the absence of a body of peer-reviewed scientific studies on its effects, medical marijuana has been legalized in half of American states. Last week, Ohio became the 25th state, 20 years after the first state to legalize (California).
But there’s no doubt that safety regulations have lagged far behind the state-to-state progression, which leaves many patients asking unanswered questions about usage and side effects. These are questions that we usually expect pharmacies, manufacturers, and government regulators to answer before a products is sold legally. And when we purchase the product, we know exactly how much to take, when, how, and what effects it will have on us.
Representative Harris said that regardless of what the DEA decides, he’s doing what he can do now to open the door for more research, essentially creating a “carve-out” within Schedule 1 for marijuana research.
“It’s a Catch-22 that the research is difficult because of the strict rules, and the rules are strict because of the lack of research,” Harris told the Post. Though he continues to believe that medical marijuana should be more strictly controlled, he adds, “as a physician I would never want to deny a medicine to a patient that has been shown, with scientific rigor, to help them.”