The House of Representatives on Monday passed a bill that would broaden access to medical cannabis research, the second time in a week that the chamber approved legislation aimed at federal cannabis policy.
Known as the Medical Marijuana Research Act, the bill easily passed the House on a bipartisan vote, 343-75.
Advocates like the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Congressman Ed Blumenauer, said it would avail crucial opportunities to U.S.-based researchers who have often been hamstrung by the federal government’s prohibition on cannabis.
Ahead of the vote on Monday, Blumenauer said in a tweet that the bill would establish a framework, without which “research is outsourced to other countries-a missed opportunity for the industry, and millions of Americans who consume cannabis products.”
The bill, first introduced in the House in October of last year, “establishes a new, separate registration process to facilitate medical marijuana research,” according to an official summary of the measure.
More specifically, it would amend the Controlled Substances Act, the federal statute that has kept cannabis illegal in the United States, despite the dozens of state and local governments that have ended their own prohibition on pot in recent years.
The bill would direct the “Drug Enforcement Administration to register (1) practitioners to conduct medical marijuana research, and (2) manufacturers and distributors to supply marijuana for such research,” and require the Department of Health and Human Services to “produce marijuana through the National Institute on Drug Abuse Drug Supply Program and implement a specialized process for supplying marijuana products available through state-authorized marijuana programs to researchers until manufacturers and distributors can provide a sufficient supply of marijuana for medical research.”
As evidenced by the final vote on the House floor on Monday, the bill enjoyed widespread bipartisan support, racking up nearly a dozen Democratic and Republican co-sponsors.
One such co-sponsor, Republican Representative Dave Joyce of Ohio, tweeted out his support of the legislation on Monday evening.
“For the sake of patients across the country, as well as USA’s medical superiority across the globe, we can’t allow outdated federal policy to keep obstructing legitimate medical research,” Joyce said.
The legislation now heads to the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate along with another major cannabis bill passed by the U.S. House in the past week.
On Friday, the House, where Democrats also hold the majority, passed a bill that would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively ending the federal prohibition on pot.
That bill, known as the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, passed on a largely party-line vote of 220-204.
Its prospects in the Senate appear dim, however, with Democrats in the upper chamber indicating that they would prefer to take up their own legalization bill.
Advocates urged the Senate to follow the House’s lead and get something down.
“At a time when the majority of states regulate marijuana use and when the majority of voters of all political ideologies support legalization, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or cultural perspective for federal lawmakers to continue to support the ‘flat Earth’ failed federal prohibitionist policies of the past,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano told High Times last week.
“It is time for members of the Senate to follow the House’s lead and take appropriate actions to comport federal law with majority public opinion and with the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.”
On Monday, following the House’s vote on the medical cannabis research bill, Armentano said that the legislation’s “common-sense regulatory changes are necessary and long overdue.”
“Currently, the limited variety of cannabis cultivars accessible to federally licensed researchers does not represent the type or quality of cannabis products currently available in legal, statewide markets. The reality that nearly one-half of U.S. adults have legal access to this multitude of cannabis products, but our nation’s top scientists do not, is the height of absurdity and it is an indictment of the current system,” Armentano said, as quoted by Forbes.