President Biden has made history by signing the marijuana research bill. It will be the first piece of standalone cannabis reform legislation in the United States.
The marijuana research bill cleared the House in July and cleared the Senate last month. It was signed by the president last Friday.
What is the Marijuana Research Bill?
The marijuana research bill gives the U.S. attorney general 60 days to either approve or request more information from a marijuana research applicant. It also makes it easier for researchers to obtain large quantities of marijuana for research purposes if necessary.
The bill also encourages the FDA to develop cannabis derived medications. It does so by allowing accredited medical organizations and providers, research institutions, and manufacturers with a Schedule I registration to grow their own marijuana for research purposes.
The marijuana research bill requires the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to approve applications allowing for the manufacturing of marijuana-derived drugs and it permits manufacturers to import cannabis materials for research purposes.
Another section of the marijuana research bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to review marijuana’s risks and health benefits as well as the policies limiting research and finding ways to overcome barriers.
It also allows state licensed physicians to discuss the risks and benefits of marijuana products with patients without the discussion being considered a ‘violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)’.
According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis, the new marijuana research bill will reduce spending by less than $500,00 and have a “negligible net change in the deficit”.
Changes Compared to the Original Version of the Senate Bill
The House version of the marijuana research bill was sponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Andy Harris (R-MD). It is basically identical to the Senate bill sponsored by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) which was passed earlier this year. However, it contains a few changes.
For example, the new bill says researchers won’t need to reapply for approval or notify or receive a review from the DEA if study protocol changes as long as they have a Schedule I registration.
The bill’s language is also different in that it uses the term cannabis rather than ‘drug’.
There are also modifications to a provision regarding a Department of Justice review of cannabis supplies used for research purposes. The new bill states that the DOJ must team up with the HHS for the review and that the HHS must submit a report to Congress if it finds the supply is inadequate.
The new marijuana research bill also eliminates a section concerning the importation of CBD for research purposes.
What’s Being Said
So what do the politicians have to say about the new marijuana research bill?
“Thank you to Representatives Blumenauer, Harris Griffith, Joyce, Mace, Perlmuter, Delegate Norton, and Senators Feinstein, Grassley, Schatz, Durbin, Klobuchar, Tillis, Kaine, Ernst, Tester and Murowski for their leadership,” states President Biden.
A joint statement was released by the four co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus- Blumenauer and Reps, Barbara Lee (D-CA), Brian Mast (R-FL), Day Joyce (R-OH) which was later signed by the president. It stated the following”
““For decades, the federal government has stood in the way of science and progress—peddling a misguided and discriminatory approach to cannabis. Today marks a monumental step in remedying our federal cannabis laws. The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act will make it easier to study the impacts and potential of cannabis.”
“Research is foundational for the path forward on cannabis policy. Research is essential to better understand the therapeutic benefits of cannabis that have the potential to help millions of Americans struggling with chronic pain, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, anxiety disorders and more.
“We celebrate the enactment of this critical and long-overdue legislation, and we know there is much more to do to remedy the ongoing harms of the failed war on drugs. Our caucus will continue working to reimagine the federal government’s approach to cannabis and enact further reforms. In the coming weeks, we are committed to passing subsequent bipartisan, common-sense proposals like the SAFE Banking package, the Veterans Equal Access Act, the PREPARE Act, and the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act.”
Feinstein also tweeted her own message which read, “I’m very pleased President Biden has signed into law our legislation to cut red tape around the marijuana research process. After years of negotiation, we’re finally enacting this bill that will result in critical research that could help millions.”
Schatz stated the following in a press release, “The medical community agrees that we need more research to learn about marijuana’s potential health benefits. Our new law will remove excessive barriers that make it difficult for researchers to study the effectiveness and safety of marijuana, and hopefully, give patients more treatment options.”
Biden’s Other Stances of Marijuana Legislation
While Biden is against federal cannabis legalization, he has been an advocate of lesser marijuana reforms. His campaign promoted cannabis research, decriminalization, and the rescheduling of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Marijuana is currently still considered a Schedule I substance meaning it has a high potential for abuse and it is not currently accepted for safe medical use in the United States.
In terms of decriminalization, the President has issued a mass pardon for Americans who were prosecuted for marijuana possession in October. He includes this, as well as his efforts towards marijuana rescheduling as among his ‘top accomplishments’ as president.
It should be noted that the decriminalization of marijuana is also happening at a local level. Texas is currently the most recent state to decriminalize cannabis.
The marijuana research bill will open doors for people looking for natural health solutions. It will eliminate barriers that prevented facilities from manufacturing cannabis-related wellness aids. It is hopeful that it allows more individuals to attain improved health throughout the years.