Republican Freshman Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL) is on a mission to pass a bill that would allow for expanded medical cannabis research.
Last week, the Medical Cannabis Act sponsored by Gaetz passed the U.S. House Judicial Committee with bipartisan support.
It's a "landmark moment" Gaetz said; it's the first time Republicans in control of Congress have passed a medical cannabis bill through committee. Next it will head to the House floor for a vote.
On Thursday, September 13, 2018, the House Judiciary Committee reported the Medical Cannabis Research Act favorably, sending it to the House floor for a vote. This legislation, the first cannabis-related legislation considered by a Republican-led Judiciary Committee in history, makes it easier for researchers to study medical cannabis, and understand its potential uses, benefits, and risks.
Currently, cannabis research is stymied by laws that unfairly prevent many of America’s great research institutions from studying cannabis, despite its promise as a treatment for nausea, epilepsy, muscular sclerosis, and a host of other conditions. Cannabis has the potential to mitigate opioid abuse and addiction, and early studies indicate that it may even help veterans who suffer from PTSD. By giving research institutions “safe harbor” — keeping them safe from legal retribution — the Medical Cannabis Research Act will greatly assist American researchers unlock cures that cannabis may provide. Just last month, the FDA approved a cannabis-derived medicine for certain types of epilepsy. Future research is likely to unlock other cures.
The Medicinal Cannabis Research Act(H.R. 5634), its author, Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL-1) told Forbes. The bill, which has 40 bipartisan cosponsors, would require the federal government to issue new cultivation licenses for research purposes.
Access to research materials -- actual cannabis – has been stymied by a lack of supply from the sole authorized source, the federal research farm operated by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). Two years since the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agreed to issue more licenses to produce research cannabis, none have been issued.
The Department of Justice has effectively blocked the process by refusing to act on any applications sent over from the DEA.
After passage, Rep. Gaetz issued the following statement:
“For too long, Congress has faced a dilemma with cannabis-related legislation: we cannot reform cannabis law without researching its safety, its efficacy, and its medical uses — but we cannot perform this critical research without first reforming cannabis law. The Medical Cannabis Research Act helps break that logjam, allowing researchers to study medical cannabis without fear of legal jeopardy. I am grateful for the support of Chairman Bob Goodlatte, who was instrumental in developing this legislation, and for the committee’s bipartisan vote to support medical research. This vote will help unlock American innovation and discovery, and help researchers bring the cures of the future a little closer to reality,” Rep. Gaetz said.
"I'm super excited about what potential cannabis has in healthcare, and I think we'll learn a lot more if we're not so stupid as a government to make the research illegal," Gaetz said.
The act would give research institutions "safe harbor" to study the potential uses, benefits, and risks of the drug, which remains a Schedule I classification under the federal law alongside heroin and LSD.
"I think that marijuana policy has in many ways been victimized by the overall chilled relationship between the White House and the Department of Justice," Gaetz said.
"I think it is really Jeff Sessions who opposes medical marijuana, and I'm not entirely sure he and President Trump will be on one another's Christmas lists going forward."
For Gaetz, Washington is obstructing its own view.
"Washington just needs to get out of the way so that we can really see the potential.
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