The U.S Congress recently launched a new era for the United States in a relatively quiet way. Lawmakers in both chambers approved by unanimous consent a medical marijuana research bill that is the first standalone cannabis-related bill approved by both the House and the Senate.
That’s a big deal, considering such a bill did not seem possible even a few years ago, much less in 2012, when voters in Washington and Colorado first approved the sale of legal recreational marijuana.
The new medical marijuana research bill will expand opportunities for scientists in the United States to conduct research into the potential health benefits of cannabis, CBD and other cannabis-related plants and chemicals.
Federal Government Ending Tight Restrictions on Research
The United States fell behind other countries in marijuana research for decades because of the Schedule I illegal status of cannabis at the federal level. For years, researchers could only use cannabis grown on a farm at the University of Mississippi. Most considered it a far inferior strain of cannabis when compared to what consumers can buy at any local dispensary.
The DEA has recently opened up the process, allowing other growers to seek a license for growing cannabis for research. At the same time, President Joe Biden has called for more research, wants to decriminalize marijuana and most recently ordered creation of a system that will lead to pardons for those convicted of federal marijuana charges in the past involving small amounts of cannabis.
Against this backdrop, the House of Representatives in July passed, by unanimous consent, a medical marijuana research bill that will help end a system that called on scientists to get multiple government agencies to approve their studies, a process that can last for years. The Senate did the same in November
Bill Held Up By Texas Senator
The bill, sponsored by Democrats Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, may have passed sooner, but Sen. John Cornyn of Texas held up approval starting in September. He released that hold in early November.
In a statement to Politico, Blumenauer said, “At a time when more than 155 million Americans reside where adult-use of cannabis is legal at the state or local level and there are four million registered medical marijuana users with many more likely to self-medicate, it is essential that we are able to fully study the impacts of cannabis use.”
The bill may not be the last on cannabis during the current session. It’s possible that Congress will still approve a banking bill that would open the door for banks to offer financial services to cannabis companies without fear of federal penalties. That change would impact cannabis businesses and customers, who currently can typically only make a transaction using cash.