US House passes medical marijuana research bill

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The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would provide a much-needed boost to efforts to research medical marijuana, which, in turn, could bolster legalization efforts and industry markets.

The Senate previously approved a separate piece of MMJ research legislation, so lawmakers from the two chambers still must sort out their differences and agree on a final measure.

The U.S. House passed HR 5657, the Medical Marijuana Research Act, by an overwhelming 343-75 margin on Monday, The Hill reported.

Those who voted against the bill were all Republicans.

The legislation would:

  • Provide a path for qualified researchers to study flower and other marijuana products sold in state-legal programs.
  • Streamline the process for researchers seeking to conduct marijuana research while still maintaining safeguards against misuse.
  • Increase the number of federally licensed marijuana growers and expedite the timeline for approvals.
  • Require the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to report within five years on any research showing medical benefits from marijuana use.

“These common-sense regulatory changes are necessary and long overdue,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in a statement.

“Currently, the limited variety of cannabis cultivars accessible to federally licensed researchers does not represent the type or quality of cannabis products currently available in legal, statewide markets.”

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Last month, Senate lawmakers passed Senate Bill 253, the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act, which also seeks to streamline the research process.

However, that bill would continue to limit access to federally licensed growers.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has been sharply criticized for years for stalling in expanding federally licensed marijiuana growers beyond the University of Mississippi.

Last year, the agency finally announced it had reached agreements with a handful of applicants to grow marijuana for federally approved clinical trials.