Washington, DC – U.S. Representatives Andy Harris, M.D. (R-MD), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), and Rob Bishop (R-UT) on July 17th introduced the Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2019. This bill addresses burdensome processes that currently impede legitimate medical research on marijuana. This bipartisan piece of legislation would amend the Controlled Substances Act to establish a new, separate registration process to facilitate research with marijuana for medical purposes.
“As a physician who has conducted NIH-sponsored research, I cannot stress enough how critical this legislation is to the scientific community. Our drug policy was never intended to act as an impediment to conducting legitimate medical research. If we are going to label marijuana as medicine, we need to conduct the same rigorous scientific research on efficacy and safety that every other FDA-approved treatment undergoes. This legislation will facilitate that research by removing the unnecessary administrative barriers that deter qualified researchers from thoroughly studying medical marijuana,” said Dr. Harris.
“47 states have legalized some form of cannabis, yet the federal government is still getting in the way of further progress on the potential for research,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “We owe it to patients and their families to allow for the research physicians need to understand marijuana’s benefits and risks and determine proper use and dosage.”
“While the definitive medical benefits of marijuana remain largely uncertain, it is important we remove the bureaucratic barriers which stand in the way of legitimate research,” said Rep. Bishop. “Many important questions remain unanswered. This legislation allows scientists and researchers to get at those answers in a responsible manner that isn’t hindered by unnecessary roadblocks.”
“There is evidence of marijuana’s potential medicinal benefits in treating conditions including cancer, epilepsy, and glaucoma,” said Rep. Griffith. “In order to move forward in evaluating the medicinal value of medical marijuana and determining its accompanying side effects, it is critical that we remove barriers to research. To that end, I am pleased to join in reintroducing this bipartisan legislation. The Medical Marijuana Research Act constitutes common sense legislation that could open the door to treatment that can substantially improve the quality of patient care.”
“This common-sense legislation would take the necessary step of advancing the Federal government’s scientific and medical research into the potential benefits and harms of medical cannabis for patients who need it,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren.
“We all know marijuana has medical benefits, but the Federal government has continued to get in the way of further medical research that would help us better understand the effects,” said Dingell. “Removing barriers that prevent research will help improve our understanding of medical marijuana and provide additional treatment options for millions of patients.”
Letters and quotes of support from a wide coalition of organizations can be found here.
The Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2019 addresses two major barriers currently faced by researchers who wish to conduct legitimate medical research with cannabis, a Schedule I drug. First, it creates a new, less cumbersome registration process specifically for marijuana, reducing approval wait times, costly security measures, and additional, unnecessary layers of protocol review. Second, once researchers have been approved to conduct this research, this bill makes it easier for those researchers to obtain the cannabis they need for their studies through reforms in both production and distribution regulations. To this end, the bill also allows for the private manufacturing and distribution of cannabis solely for research purposes. Currently, the only marijuana available to be used in research legally comes from a single contract the National Institute on Drug Abuse holds with the University of Mississippi.