House of Representatives passes bill permitting research into government-produced cannabis

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Thursday, July 1, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an extensive bill that could prompt new cannabis research opportunities. The measure contains a provision to permit investigations into impaired driving with the use of cannabis procured from state-legal dispensaries. 

The House-supported bill which was an integral component of a 1,300-plus-page transit bill outlines a clause encouraging researchers to carry out studies into the green plant. Following its committee clearance in June, the legislation was passed by the chamber with a vote of 221-201. 

A previous version of the cannabis research bill flew through the House with flying colors during the last Congress. Despite its featured provisions being fairly identical to those included in the newly-approved bill, it failed to progress in the GOP-led Senate.

Federal report must be issued outlining recommendations for study on cannabis-impaired driving

To paint a clear picture of the way(s) in which cannabis may impair a person’s driving ability, the extensive transportation bill specifies that the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must compose a federal report within two years of the bill’s enactment.

Recommendations on granting scientists permission to access retail-level cannabis for impaired driving studies would also be included in the report. Furthermore, the report ought to shed some light on the best ways to establish “a national clearinghouse to collect and distribute samples and strains of [cannabis] for scientific research.” This is based on the official text of the proposal, which confirms that the research-grade cannabis would be obtained via state-legal markets.

Last, but not least, the measure insists on the report’s in-depth analysis of “statutory and regulatory barriers to the conduct of scientific research and the establishment of a national clearinghouse for purposes of facilitating research on [cannabis]-impaired driving.”

Cannabis-impaired driving legislation demands legal states to educate public on subject

Sponsored by House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the cannabis-impaired driving legislation amends a chunk of the existing law that orders states to update their highway safety programs. 

Specifically, the program language should be amended to feature a new rule (stipulating) that states “which have legalized medicinal or recreational [cannabis] shall consider programs in addition to the programs…to educate drivers on the risks associated with [cannabis]-impaired driving and to reduce injuries and deaths resulting from individuals driving motor vehicles while impaired by [cannabis.]”

A separate section contained in the transportation legislation would instruct legal cannabis states to educate people on the dangers of driving under the influence of cannabis. This, the U.S. House of Representatives affirms, would help to discourage people from operating a motor vehicle after consuming the plant; in any form. Additionally, a House-adopted floor amendment would develop an ambitious grant program that could assist states and Indian tribes in triumphantly educating “the public on the dangers of drug-impaired driving.”

Recently, the DEA took steps towards authorizing research initiatives among cannabis product manufacturers. On May 14, several companies were informed by the Agency that they had reached the next step in the approval process; a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was issued to a handful of manufacturers

While the DEA’s latest move indicates progress for the cannabis research industry, researchers would not gain the privilege to obtain cannabis products from state-legal retailers as freely as they would under the terms of the transportation bill.