Medical Marijuana Research Bill Approved by House

Stephen Andrews
07 Apr 2022

Two different cannabis-related bills are currently seeing progress among lawmakers. On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill to expand cannabis research, which would mainly benefit the medical sector. The Medical Marijuana Research Act, as the measure has been dubbed, passed the House on a bipartisan vote, 343-75. The research bill has greater chances of progress also in the Senate, unlike the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which was passed by the House for the second time last Friday, April 1. Sadly, there is not much optimism around the MORE ACT, which seeks to remove cannabis from the list of scheduled substances. It's very likely this piece of legislation will die in the Senate.

The Medical Marijuana Research Act was met with massive support in the House of Representatives earlier this week. The bill, sponsored by Democratic Congressman Ed Blumenauer, seeks to "establish a new, separate registration process to facilitate medical marijuana research." In other words, it will open up research opportunities for scientists who have previously faced obstacles due to the federal prohibition on marijuana. 

As the official summary of the measure reads, the Medical Marijuana Act "directs the Drug Enforcement Administration to register (1) practitioners to conduct medical marijuana research, and (2) manufacturers and distributors to supply marijuana for such research." 

In addition, the bill asks that "the Department of Health and Human Services must continue 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." 

Bill sponsor Blumenauer shortly before the Monday vote tweeted that the bill would establish a framework that would prevent outsourcing research to other countries. The absence of such a framework would present "a missed opportunity for the industry, and millions of Americans who consume cannabis products," he wrote. 

Fortunately, the bill, which was first introduced in the House in October of last year, was well received in the House among both Republicans and Democrats. The measure would amend the Controlled Substances Act, the federal law that has kept marijuana illegal in the United States regardless of the plant's legalization in various states. 

Republican Representative Dave Joyce of Ohio said he is proud to cosponsor the Medical Marijuana Research Act in a separate tweet Monday evening. He wrote: "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." 

In a press statement, NORML's Deputy Director Paul Armentano said, "these 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. 

Following a successful House vote, the bill was received in the Senate on Tuesday, where the MORE Act is also pending further review.

The MORE Act moved forward in the House via an overwhelmingly party-line vote of 220-204 last Friday, that being the second time the House has approved the same act. 

While the Medical Marijuana Research Act is more likely to advance in the Senate, the MORE ACT, unfortunately, seems destined to fail one more time. The Senate would need to secure 60 votes for each act to pass. In the case of the MORE Act, that would include all 50 Democrats, and it has to win the support of at least 10 Republicans. 

However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) have proposed an amended version of the MORE Act in the Senate, which is The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). This version of the bill has greater chances to advance through both chambers in the future, given that Schumer mobilizes enough support to secure a pass in the Senate.

Suppose the CAOA wins support over the MORE Act, and lawmakers harmonize the contents of these two bills, the last stop then would be the President. Joe Biden, who is no fan of cannabis legalization, has to sign any bill into law. Until anything like that happens, I anticipate more gray hair to grow on my head anyways.

Stephen Andrews