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Congress is Preparing to Vote on the Medical Cannabis Research Act


For the first time in a Republican-controlled Congress, a marijuana-related bill will see a vote by the House panel that oversees federal drug enforcement. The bill in question is the Medical Cannabis Research Act, which is sponsored by Representative Matt Gaetz and 40 bipartisan cosponsors. If passed, it would require the federal government to license additional facilities to cultivate cannabis to be used in scientific studies.

“The federal government should not stand in the way of collaboration that can help people live better lives,” Gaetz said in a phone interview about the proposed expansion, which will go before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

For decades, the only place in the United States where fully and federally legal cannabis is grown is at the University of Mississippi. Unfortunately, while you might expect the government to be experimenting with breeding and creating some dank strains, instead, researchers are continually disappointed with the quality of the bud they receive for testing because it doesn’t truly compare to the medical marijuana most Americans currently have access to in states where it is legal.

“Precedent is the biggest concern,” Michael Collins, interim director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs, said in a phone interview. “If the committee is already on the record saying we ban people from participating in this sector of this industry, that’s going to possibly win the day going forward.”

This is a great step forward in accepting the need for marijuana policy reform – and at least a move in the right direction for future legislation to be passed. Though this is definitely a positive move from our government, the legislation doesn’t come without its issues. One of the biggest concerns is that it doesn’t allow anyone with a “conviction for a felony or drug-related misdemeanor” from being affiliated with cultivating the federally legal bud.

This means that anyone who potentially has the necessary knowledge – but may have been negatively impacted by the war on drugs – is simply skipped over for someone potentially less knowledgeable, but without a criminal record.

The bill would also require that cultivation facilities have good standing with local law enforcement – which will automatically disqualify many otherwise qualified candidates simply because their local law enforcement is on the side of criminalization and prohibition.

The Medical Cannabis Research Act won’t change much on a federal level if it is passed; but, it would open up the opportunity for more cultivation facilities to grow cannabis in compliance with the federal government. And the fact that a piece of cannabis legislation is getting a vote at all is definitely something to be happy about.