President Joe Biden added his signature last week to a bipartisan bill that seeks to broaden and streamline research into medical cannabis.
Dubbed the “Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act,” the law “establishes a new registration process for conducting research on marijuana and for manufacturing marijuana products for research purposes and drug development,” according to a release on Friday from the White House.
Despite medical marijuana’s ubiquity throughout the country, cannabis remains illegal on the federal level, which has hamstrung the potential for research into the area. The newly signed bill aims to change that.
It passed the United States Senate last month with bipartisan support after it won approval in the U.S. House of Representatives with the Democratic and Republican votes in July.
It is the byproduct of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, which celebrated Biden’s signing of the bill on Friday.
The group of lawmakers touted the measure as “the first standalone federal marijuana reform law enacted since the adoption of the Controlled Substances Act in 1971.”
The law aims to “facilitate research on marijuana and its potential health benefit…by streamlining the application process for scientific marijuana studies and removing existing barriers for researchers that frequently slow the research process.”
“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,” Cannabis Caucus Co-Chairs Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Dave Joyce (R-OH), and Brian Mast (R-FL) said in a joint statement following Biden’s signing. “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,” the chairs added.
In the other chamber, Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein of California said that there is “substantial evidence that marijuana-derived medications can and are providing major health benefits,” and that the bill “will make it easier to study how these medications can treat various conditions, resulting in more patients being able to easily access safe medications.”
“We know that cannabidiol-derived medications can be effective for conditions like epilepsy. This bill will help refine current medical CBD practices and develop important new applications. After years of negotiation, I’m delighted that we’re finally enacting this bill that will result in critical research that could help millions,” Feinstein said.
The group of lawmakers said that the caucus “will continue working to reimagine the federal government’s approach to cannabis and enact further reforms,” including “the SAFE Banking package, the Veterans Equal Access Act, the PREPARE Act, and the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act.”
It marks the second action that Biden has taken on federal marijuana policy in the last two months. In October, the president announced pardons for those who have previously been convicted of simple pot-related offenses under federal law.
In addition, Biden also signaled his desire to move toward federal decriminalization, saying he has directed cabinet officials to reclassify marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, which enshrines federal prohibition on pot.
“As I often said during my campaign for President, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said in his announcement. “Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”
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