The US House Panel approved the so-called Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018, which will require the Department of Justice and AG Jeff Session to begin issuing more licenses to grow marijuana for research and facilitate federally-approved clinical trials assessing the efficacy of whole-plant cannabis.
The vote, which took place on Sept. 13, 2018 marks the first time that US lawmakers have ever decided in favor of relaxing stringent federal restrictions that have limited and obstructed researchers’ ability to clinically study marijuana in the same way that other controlled substances are analyzed.
Forbes reported that prior to the vote, a bitter dispute broke out over a provision in the legislation that prevents anyone with a “conviction for a felony or drug-related misdemeanor” from being affiliated with cannabis research cultivation operations.
“There is no legitimate health or public safety justification for the inclusion of this language and we urge you to strike this unnecessary, punitive ban on individuals with previous drug law violations,” according to a letter sent to the committee's leaders the day before the vote. The letter was signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, #cut50, the Drug Policy Alliance and other groups. “To help lower recidivism rates and improve public safety, we should be making it easier for people with records to obtain jobs, not more difficult.”
NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano praised the outcome of the vote, calling the present restrictions on research onerous and irrational.
“It is high time that lawmakers recognize this problem and take action to amend it so that investigators may conduct the same sort of high-quality clinical research with cannabis that they do with other substances,” said Armentano in a statement.
At the moment, federal regulations oblige researchers participating in FDA-approved clinical trials involving cannabis to obtain their research marijuana from a single source - the University of Mississippi.
Many of those familiar with their product have criticized its quality, saying that it does not accurately reflect the wide variety of cannabis products and strains available to consumers.
“More clinical research is welcome, but unfortunately science has never driven marijuana policy. If it did, the United States would already have a very different policy in place,” added Armentano.