US President Joe Biden has signed a historical piece of legislation by passing the country’s first federal cannabis reform law. The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act, signed into law on Friday 2nd Dec 2022, will enable more support for cannabis research, reducing federal restrictions in order to speed up studies into the plant.
The bipartisan bill, introduced in July, passed in the House in the same month, and unanimously approved by the Senate in November helps cannabis research in many ways including:
- Creating a more streamlined bureaucratic mechanism for researchers to gain permission for cannabis research projects
- Establishing a framework from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve the commercial production of cannabis for research
- Protecting doctors by allowing them to discuss with patients the benefits and harms of using cannabis as a medicine
Cannabis research is estimated to be 30-40 years behind, due to the prohibition that has been placed on the plant over the last 100 years. The relaxing of previously stringent cannabis research laws by the introduction of the new Act will allow for more scientific trials to be conducted and enable researchers to have a better understanding of cannabis, its components and how they can help patients, consumers, cannabis businesses and scientists researching the field of cannabis medicine. It also gives new powers to doctors and clinicians who want to use cannabis in their practice.
Cannabis research will be further helped by a section of the Act that stipulates accredited medical and osteopathic schools, practitioners, research institutions, and manufacturers with a Schedule I registration will be allowed to cultivate their own cannabis for the purposes of research.
The Act further aids the research of cannabis by directing the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to “assess whether there is an adequate and uninterrupted supply of cannabis for research purposes”, and by mandating the “Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health to report on the therapeutic potential of cannabis for various health conditions as well as the impact on adolescent brains and on the ability to operate a motor vehicle”.
I’m very pleased President Biden has signed into law our legislation to cut red tape around the marijuana research process. After years of negotiation, we’re finally enacting this bill that will result in critical research that could help millions.https://t.co/c7pscvKNT9
— Senator Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) December 2, 2022
A statement released by the four chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus (a congressional caucus being a group of congressman and women who meet to pursue a specific political goal), released a statement following the signing of the Act on Friday.
“For decades, the federal government has stood in the way of science and progress—peddling a misguided and discriminatory approach to cannabis. Today marks a monumental step in remedying our federal cannabis laws,” they said. “The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act will make it easier to study the impacts and potential of cannabis.”
“Research is foundational for the path forward on cannabis policy. 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.”
The signing of the Act comes at a busy time for cannabis reform in the USA. In October President Biden announced that he would be pardoning all federal prisoners convicted of cannabis possession, and initiating a review into the scheduling of cannabis.
In November a Gallup poll found that 68% of adults favoured legalising cannabis at the federal level, and the Guardian reported on Saturday 3rd December that the democrats in the Senate will push for cannabis banking reforms during the “lame duck season”.
However, in a distinct move away from rational drug policy, former President Donald Trump announced he would stand in the 2024 elections and promised to work with Congress to impose the death penalty for drug dealers who are, “responsible for death, carnage and crime”.