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On December 2nd, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act, the first piece of standalone cannabis legislation in US history to become law. It will reportedly streamline a new process for cannabis research applications and for manufacturing products for drug development and allow for a larger amount of legal cannabis for research purposes.
Recently, President Joe Biden signed a bill that will reportedly greatly improve access to cannabis research and studies in the US. The bipartisan bill, called the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act, had passed the House in July 2022 and the Senate in November 2022, and was signed into law on December 2nd, 2022. “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,” a Forbes article reported (1). “Under the new law, the federal government has to ensure an adequate, uninterrupted supply of marijuana available to scientists for studies on medical marijuana.”
Furthermore, the Attorney General must now approve, request more information, or deny research applications within 60 days of receiving them (1). Universities and research institutions will be able to acquire licenses to grow, manufacture, distribute, dispense, and possess cannabis for research purposes with guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (1). “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 Forbes article stated.
The four co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus released a joint statement regarding the future of cannabis research and policy (2). “Research is foundational for the path forward on cannabis policy,” read the press release, in part. “Research is essential to better understand the therapeutic benefits of cannabis that have the potential to help millions of Americans struggling with chronic pain, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, anxiety disorders and more. We celebrate the enactment of this critical and long-overdue legislation, and we know there is much more to do to remedy the ongoing harms of the failed war on drugs. Our caucus will continue working to reimagine the federal government’s approach to cannabis and enact further reforms. In the coming weeks, we are committed to passing subsequent bipartisan, common-sense proposals like the SAFE Banking package, the Veterans Equal Access Act, the PREPARE Act, and the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act.”
Though this is a historical first step in enabling cannabis research, advocates state that much more needs to happen within the government to improve safety and access in the medical cannabis community. “The medical community agrees that we need more research to learn about marijuana’s potential health benefits,” said Representative Brian Schatz in a press release (2). “Our new law will remove excessive barriers that make it difficult for researchers to study the effectiveness and safety of marijuana, and hopefully, give patients more treatment options.”
Also notable, accredited medical and osteopathic schools, practitioners, research institutions, and manufacturers with a Schedule I registration are now allowed to cultivate their own cannabis for research purposes (2). As stated in the press release (2): “The bill further states that it ‘shall not be a violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) for a State-licensed physician to discuss’ the risk and benefits of marijuana and cannabis-derived products with patients.”
Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country’s largest organization of patients, medical cannabis providers, medical professionals, scientists, and citizens promoting safe access to medical cannabis commented on the passing of the law in a press release on their website (3). “While the research bill certainly reduces some barriers for cannabis researchers, it does nothing to address the critical problems patients across the country experience due to larger federal inaction on cannabis policy,” said Abbey Roudebush, Director of Government Affairs for ASA. “We have been advocating for federal cannabis reforms, including reducing barriers to research, but are well aware that our job is not done until everyone has equitable and legal access to medical cannabis on the federal level.”
“We want lawmakers to know: this bill is just the beginning – it is not the finish line,” ASA said in their press release (3).