President Joe Biden turns the Medical Marijuana Research Bill into law, changing how American scientists can do research on marijuana.
As anticipated by Marijuana Moment last week, the White House announced on Friday that President Biden signed the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act, “which establishes a new registration process for conducting research on marijuana and for manufacturing marijuana products for research purposes and drug development.”
The bipartisan bill was introduced in July, quickly passed in the House in the same month, and unanimously approved by the Senate in November.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Democrat), who sponsored the bill, released a joint press statement along with Cannabis Caucus Co-Chairs Barbara Lee (Democrat), Dave Joyce (Republican), and Brian Mast (Republican) stressing the importance of such achievement.
“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,” the statement reads.
Furthermore, the Representatives highlighted how fundamental is medical research on marijuana to understand the full medicinal potential of the plant to treat a wide array of medical conditions and pledged to work on ending the war on drugs through a series of upcoming proposals that will reshape the status of marijuana at the federal level.
The law significantly eases the lives of scientists who wish to study marijuana for medical purposes, as they had to follow strict regulations that could delay their research.
The new legislation removes federal restrictions in order to ease research from studying the plant and speeds up the application process to approve marijuana-related scientific studies.
Under the new law, the federal government has to ensure an adequate, uninterrupted supply of marijuana available to scientists for studies on medical marijuana.
Therefore, researchers will be able to learn more about the plant’s medical properties and request large amounts of marijuana to use for research.
In fact, the legislation now requires that within 60 days of receiving a researcher’s application, the U.S. Attorney General has to approve it, request more information, or deny it specifying the reasons. If researchers submit more information upon request, the Attorney General has 30 days to decide.
Universities and research institutions will now be able to acquire U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) license to grow, manufacture, distribute, dispense and possess marijuana for research purposes, with guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Food And Drug Administration.
Scientists who wish to do marijuana research may update their protocol without informing the DEA if the quantity and form of marijuana, the source, and the storage conditions of the material won’t change.
The legislation also encourages the FDA to develop marijuana-derived medicines and addresses the HHS to determine the potential medical benefits of marijuana or cannabidiol (or CBD) as a drug.
The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act also intervenes in the doctor-patient relationship by allowing physicians to discuss the currently known potential harms and benefits of marijuana cannabinoids, such as CBD, as a treatment or the known possible damages and benefits of marijuana and its compounds.
Nevertheless, the legislation doesn’t allow scientists to obtain marijuana from state-run dispensaries and won’t reschedule marijuana at the federal level.
In fact, marijuana will remain illegal at the federal level under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.
However, the legislation represents a significant step forward for medical research on marijuana in the U.S.
Before the new law, doing research on marijuana was very difficult in the U.S. as scientists needed approval from multiple agencies to conduct studies, which could sometimes take years.
Furthermore, scientists were only allowed to use marijuana grown by the University of Mississippi, although the DEA has recently awarded six other marijuana cultivation licenses for research to U.S. companies.
Biden’s signature of The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act follows the executive order in October pardoning about 6,500 individuals convicted for marijuana possession at the federal level.
On that occasion, he also asked the Secretary of the HHS and the Attorney General to “initiate the process of reviewing how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.”
Although the new law doesn’t implement more reform at the federal level, it may pave the way for new federal legislation on marijuana, such as the SAFE Banking Act, that may ease the federal restrictions on the marijuana industry.