House Committee Approves Historic Medical Cannabis Research Bill
May 14th, 2018
There is no doubt that public support for cannabis legalization has been gaining momentum. According to Gallup, support for legalization has risen from less than 50 percent prior to 2010 to more than 64 percent by early 2018. The rise of Republican support to more than 50 percent in 2017 marked a key turning point since bipartisan bills could gain support.
Hundreds of cannabis reform bills have been filed in Congress over the years, but not a single one has ever been put to a vote – until now.
A House committee approved cannabis law reform legislation last Tuesday for the first time in history without attaching the measure to any larger bill. With broad bipartisan support, the bill signals that Congress could be ready to tackle real cannabis reforms.
The new bill, filed by Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) and Tim Walz (D-MN) along with more than 50 cosponsors, would encourage the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to conduct research on cannabis’ medical benefits. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) introduced a companion bill in the Senate on Monday, as well.
What in the Bill?
While, Veterans’ Affairs is already allowed to participate in cannabis research, the new bill would strongly encourage reluctant leadership to research whole plant marijuana and extracts involving at least three different strains of cannabis with significant variants in phenotypic traits and various ratios of tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol in chemical composition.
The research would be focused on examining varying methods of cannabis delivery, including topical applications, combustible, and noncombustible inhalation, and ingestion. While smoking cannabis has been the most popular consumption method, new forms of cannabis delivery technologies could provider greater benefits with a lower risk.
The VA would be required to preserve all of the data that it collects from the studies and issue a report to Congress within 180 days that includes a plan to implement the research. The VA would also have to send updates no less than annually for a period of five years.
What it Means
The new bill may not be a comprehensive bill legalizing medical cannabis research nationwide, but it’s a starting point that highlights growing bipartisan support for the movement.
Many cannabis advocates hope that the new research bill will go one step further and compel the VA to begin letting doctors issuing recommendations for military veterans in states where the drug has been legalized. By comparison, the current bill only supports the research of medical cannabis without guaranteeing that it will ever be prescribed.
Cannabis advocates and other industry participants will be keeping a close eye on these developments over the coming months as Congressional support for cannabis legalization appears to be on the rise.
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