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house Bill H.R. 601

Should There be More Sources of Medical Marijuana For Federally-Funded Research?

Argument in favor

Medical cannabis has many potential applications. Federally-funded researchers should have access to high-quality product with which to conduct research, and veterans should be able to be advised on, and participate in, federally-approved trials.

Lithicspiral's Opinion
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03/16/2019
CBD and THC have numerous medical applications and these should be open to further and subject to research.
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Ellen's Opinion
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03/16/2019
Sure beats alcohol — tax it —— sell it ...
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Caroline's Opinion
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03/16/2019
I completely support this legislation, especially as an Idahoan. We are surrounded by states with legal marijuana. We need more research as we are forced to make some decisions about legalization in our state.
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Argument opposed

Banning people with criminal records from working at cultivators and requiring cultivators to have letters of good standing from local law enforcement agencies may make it harder for cultivators to run their businesses.

John's Opinion
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03/16/2019
Lol. There are plenty of growers out there. If pot was legalized there would be plenty of delicious hybrid strains for the government to use for research. You can’t tell me the federal government doesn’t have access to marijuana.
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Loretta's Opinion
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03/16/2019
Sad to say ...don’t trust Republicans to do the right thing!...especially now with our liar in Chief the Republicans refuse to sensure.
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JustJeeps's Opinion
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03/16/2019
Private enterprise will likely accelerate this research and thus the federal spending is unnecessary.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Energy and Commerce
      Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
      Health
    IntroducedJanuary 16th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 601?

This bill —  the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019 — would increase the number of cannabis manufacturers allowed to grow the substance for legitimate research purposes; authorize healthcare providers at the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide recommendations to veterans regarding participating in federally-approved cannabis clinical trials; and create a “safe harbor” for VA researchers and VA-funded institutions studying medical cannabis and the patients in federally-approved medical cannabis clinical trials. It would not interfere with or change federal or state laws or law enforcement, or make any changes to cannabis’ legal status.

Starting in 2019,  the Attorney General (AG) would be required to increase the number of manufacturers allowed to manufacture cannabis for legitimate research purposes from its current number of one to at least three.

Manufacturers authorized by the AG would be required to:

  • Comply with all applicable requirements of this legislation;

  • Limit the transfer and sale of any cannabis they manufacture under this legislation to researchers registered to conduct research with Schedule I controlled substances, preclinical research, and clinical investigations;

  • Transfer or sell any cannabis manufactured pursuant to this bill only with the prior, written consent of the AG;

  • Complete an application and review process for the bulk manufacture of schedule I controlled substances;

  • Have a process for storing and handling schedule I controlled substances that includes inventory control and security monitoring;

  • Be able to provide at least 10 unique plant cultivars to ensure plant diversity and scale up to produce bulk plant material on an uninterrupted basis to meet forecasted demand;

  • Hold a license to manufacture cannabis in each state in which they conduct operations;

  • Complete criminal background checks for all personnel involved in their operations, in order to confirm that they have no convictions for violent felonies;

  • Have a letter of reference from state health and law enforcement authorities in whose jurisdictions they operate, affirming their good standing; and

  • Have the ability to test for and isolate at least 12 cannabinoids for the purposes of producing specific products for specific studies by compounding pharmacists or others, labeling, and chemical consistency

The AG would be responsible for conducting annual assessments to determine whether there’s an adequate and uninterrupted supply for cannabis for legitimate research purposes.

This legislation would also explicitly allow healthcare providers at the VA to: 1) provide information to veterans regarding participation in federally-approved cannabis clinical trials, and 2) to complete forms relating to veterans’ participation in federally-approved cannabis clinical trials.

It’d also allow healthcare providers and other VA employees to accept information regarding federally-approved cannabis clinical trials provided by individuals who are not VA employees, as long as they are researchers registered under the Controlled Substances Act to conduct research with schedule I controlled substances. Finally, this legislation would allow the VA to conduct medical cannabis research for the VA employees conducting the research are researchers registered under the Controlled Substances Act to conduct research with schedule I controlled substances.

This legislation does not interfere with federal laws, state laws, or law enforcement. It bill makes no changes to the legal status of cannabis.

Impact

Medical cannabis research; VA health care providers; VA hospitals; Department of Veterans Affairs; and the Attorney General.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 601

When this bill was introduced in the 115th Congress, the CBO estimated that it'd have a negligible effect on federal spending, costing less than $500,000 over the 2019-2023 period.

More Information

In-Depth: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to lower barriers to medical marijuana research:

“For too long, Congress has faced a dilemma with cannabis-related legislation: we cannot reform cannabis law without researching its safety, its efficacy, and its medical uses — but we cannot perform this critical research without first reforming cannabis law. The Medical Cannabis Research Act helps break that logjam, allowing researchers to study medical cannabis without fear of legal jeopardy. This bipartisan legislation will make a tremendous difference to researchers nationwide, who may finally be able to develop cures for illnesses that affect many of America’s most vulnerable populations. I fully believe that this bill has a chance to pass this Congress and be signed into law by the President, who expressed his support for medical cannabis during his campaign."

Last Congress, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) introduced this bill to allow researchers to study the potential cures medical cannabis may unlock:

“This bipartisan cannabis reform legislation will improve the quality of scientific research on cannabis, while protecting research institutions nationwide. I fully believe that this bill has a chance to pass this Congress and be signed into law by the President, who expressed his support for medical cannabis during his campaign. It is monumental for the House Judiciary Committee to consider cannabis-related legislation. They have not tackled legislation on this topic since 1978, before I was born. I have been assured that the committee will take up my legislation, however; the Medical Cannabis Research Act was cosponsored by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, and his office was instrumental in helping to draft the final legislation. He has been invaluable in making this legislation a reality, and I thank him for his help. Cannabis has always faced a Catch-22 in Congress: we can’t change cannabis laws without doing research, but we can’t do more research without changing the law. Our bill finally breaks that logjam. This legislation will make a tremendous difference to researchers nationwide, who may finally be able to develop cures for illnesses that affect many of America’s most vulnerable populations. I thank my colleagues for their support, and look forward to passing sweeping cannabis reform legislation this Congress.”

Some drug policy reform advocates, who otherwise strongly support expanding medical marijuana research, expressed concerns with some of this bill’s provisions when it was introduced last Congress. Specifically, they didn't like that it barred people with felony or drug-related misdemeanor convictions from being affiliated with research cultivation operations, or that it requires research cultivation operations to have letters of good standing from local law enforcement agencies, many of which have historically opposed cannabis reform. Michael Collins, interim director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs, said:

“Precedent is the biggest concern. 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. While the bill’s consideration represents progress, it’s a drop in the ocean given what we need to do to end federal prohibition and repair the harms of the drug war… [and the restrictive provisions are] egregious, unnecessary, and representative of an outdated approach to public policy.”

In response to these concerns, Rep. Gaetz said that he didn't necessarily disagree, saying, “I would go a lot further. If I was king for a day, marijuana doctrine would look different from this bill.” But he argued that the concessions in the bill were needed to get other GOP lawmakers on board:

"For many of my Republican colleagues, the most difficult marijuana reform vote to take is the first one. I'm trying to create the most comfortable setting for marijuana skeptics to do something right by their constituents, and that process can yield imperfect legislation that is directionally correct."

However, Collins contended that removing the restrictions in this bill wouldn’t harm its chance at passage, and argued that the restrictions actually made this bill's passage less likely because they caught the attention of criminal justice reform advocates:

“The provisions are overly cautious and unnecessary given what the committee has voted on in the past (namely, broader criminal justice reform aimed at giving people second chances after serving prison terms)... [the Drug Policy Alliance] would like to get behind this bill, but with these provisions it's going to be very difficult.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who's now the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, voted against this bill in the 115th Congress due to concerns about the ban on workers with felony convictions. Citing the racially disproportionate manner in which drug laws have been historically applied, Rep. Nadler argued that this bill "unfortunately and unjustly expands the collateral consequences of criminal convictions."

Ultimately, Rep. Gaetz modified this bill before reintroducing it in the current Congress. Whereas the 115th Congress version of this bill banned people with a felony or drug-related misdemeanor” from manufacturing marijuana for research purposes, the new version introduced this Congress only bans those with "violent felony convictions."

Queen Adeyusi, policy coordinator at the Drug Policy Alliance's Office of National Affairs, says her organization is "pleased that Rep Gaetz has revised his bill to remove the provisions that prohibited personnel with convictions for a felony or drug-related misdemeanor from working on marijuana research," but adds that the Drug Policy Alliance continues to oppose even the ban on those with violent felony convictions. Adeysi says

“There is no sound reason to include [a ban on those with violent felony convictions working in marijuana cultivation] in a marijuana research bill, and such bans only serve to exacerbate racial disparities that permeate our criminal justice system. That said, we have received a commitment from the Gaetz office that eliminating the ban completely is a change they support and would be happy to make.”

Last Congress, NORML, a nonprofit public-interest advocacy group advocating for marijuana reform, called this legislation a step in the right direction to lay the foundation for future medical cannabis research in spite of its overly-restrictive permitting process. NORML Political Director Justin Stekal said:

“The Medical Cannabis Research Act would, in theory, dramatically expand access to medical grade cannabis for researchers for scientific purposes. While the bill is imperfect as it would rely on known prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions to oversee an overly restrictive permitting process, its passage would be a step in the right direction to lay the foundation for future research into marijuana’s most beneficial properties.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a Senate hearing in 2017 that adding additional cannabis cultivators would be “healthy,” and testified at a hearing in spring 2018 that a dozen applications for additional cultivators’ licensing would be acted upon “soon.” However, nothing has been announced as of September 2018.

The Dept. of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel has recently concluded that this bill’s plan to license more growers violates U.N. drug treaties. However, the Obama administration’s State Department said in 2016 that allowing additional cultivators wouldn’t violate international agreements.

This bill has seven bipartisan cosponsors, including two Republicans and five Democrats, in the current session of Congress. Last Congress, this bill passed the House Judiciary Committee on a voice vote with the support of 44 cosponsors, including 19 Republicans and 25 Democrats. Most notably, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who has historically opposed marijuana reform, was an original cosponsor of this bill last CongressRep. Goodlatte’s support was key to this bill’s advancement last Congress.


Of Note: Currently, all federally-approved studies of medical cannabis receive their product from one subpar source. This leads to product that is weak and often moldy, potentially causing illness. In addition to being poor quality, federally-grown cannabis is also scarce. In the closing months of the Obama administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) moved to create a process to license additional cannabis cultivators, but the Trump administration’s DEA has since blocked DEA from acting on the proposals, leaving applications from over two dozen entities unread. AG Sessions has stated that action on these applications is coming “soon,” but DOJ has made no other statements on these applications.

Some federally-funded institutions, such as universities, are interested in researching medical cannabis, but can’t do so, as it would jeopardize their federal funding.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit:iStockphoto.com / LPETTET)

AKA

Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019

Official Title

To increase the number of manufacturers registered under the Controlled Substances Act to manufacture cannabis for legitimate research purposes, to authorize health care providers of the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide recommendations to veterans regarding participation in federally approved cannabis clinical trials, and for other purposes.

    CBD and THC have numerous medical applications and these should be open to further and subject to research.
    Like (73)
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    Lol. There are plenty of growers out there. If pot was legalized there would be plenty of delicious hybrid strains for the government to use for research. You can’t tell me the federal government doesn’t have access to marijuana.
    Like (27)
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    Sure beats alcohol — tax it —— sell it ...
    Like (50)
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    I completely support this legislation, especially as an Idahoan. We are surrounded by states with legal marijuana. We need more research as we are forced to make some decisions about legalization in our state.
    Like (36)
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    Make weed legal period
    Like (28)
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    I can support this partially, but why is the research focus just for VA labs and VA patients for experimental trials? I believe we will achieve more results, if we open and extend the Research to Universities, and allow the general public to come in for experimental treatments. This could also include Veterans, since often VA clinics are far away from where veterans reside.
    Like (16)
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    Chronic pain sufferers need a safe, non addictive pain relieving source. Marijuana may be it. Let’s find out and open the market to help our citizens by legalizing medical marijuana.
    Like (13)
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    CBD, THC & Hemp all need to be rescheduled and done so separately! If done correctly, all will be rated lower than alcohol. Speaking of which, I've found it very difficult to locate alcohol on the list of scheduled narcotics. Also we need to stop calling it alcohol poisoning, this gives an illusion that there was something wrong with the alcohol. Call it for what it is to reduce the probability of it happening, call it alcohol overdose!
    Like (11)
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    Sad to say ...don’t trust Republicans to do the right thing!...especially now with our liar in Chief the Republicans refuse to sensure.
    Like (10)
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    Private enterprise will likely accelerate this research and thus the federal spending is unnecessary.
    Like (8)
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    No brainer. Unless you like people suffering unnecessarily
    Like (7)
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    There is obviously benefits for medical marijuana. Let's see if more benefits can be found. Besides the government makes plenty off of the pot sales
    Like (7)
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    Medical marijuana could potentially reduce or eliminate the need for opioids/opiates, as well as other, more harmful pharmaceuticals. This legislation needs to be passed!
    Like (7)
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    Medical Cannabis Research Act. Over 120 different prescription are derived from herbal medicine. Digitalis is from fox glove, aspiring from white willow and many more. The problem is money an patient, can't make money on something you can grow in your back yard. Big pharmaceutical and the AMA are against testing of herbal medicine $$$$$. It could cure you?
    Like (6)
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    Legalize it.. stop demonizing it !
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    It should be in the free Enterprise system and subject to competition.
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    Absolutely!
    Like (6)
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    Marijuana research is being unfairly stymied by the current system. We need to open up the opportunities for research.
    Like (5)
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    Medical marijuana is a wonderful thing it helps out with so much it isn’t the same as recreational where people smoke to get high they smoke it so they don’t hurt so they don’t have to struggle from day to day
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    What was the person saying about getting it free. Must be a Trumpee. It would need to be prescribed and paid for. Ok
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