Senate approves bill to permit research into dispensary-sourced weed

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Tuesday, August 10, the U.S. Senate approved an expansive infrastructure bill containing provisions that will enable researchers to study the specific composition of cannabis being consumed from state-legal dispensaries.

Prior to the bill’s approval, researchers were limited to using only government-grown cannabis. The legislation also urges states with legal cannabis laws to start educating people about impaired driving.

A separate chunk of legislation sought to simplify research into cannabis and its key components, such as CBD (cannabidiol), by lifting certain barriers. Despite being filed by three bipartisan senators, it was not featured on the bill before its passage.

How will the Senate-approved measure let researchers study cannabis from dispensaries?

The measure instructs the transportation secretary to cooperate with the attorney general and secretary of health and human services. This working team would be required to establish a public report within two years of the bill being enacted; inclusive of recommendations for scientists to access retail-level cannabis for impaired driving studies.

The cannabis provision states that the report must feature a recommendation on establishing a national agency to “collect and distribute samples and strains of [cannabis] for scientific research that includes [cannabis] and products containing [cannabis] lawfully available to patients or consumers in a state on a retail basis.”

It goes on to say that scientists who work in states that have not yet enacted cannabis legalization should also have the opportunity to obtain dispensary products sold in districts that continue to prohibit the plant; in any form.

The Senate voted 68-30 on the infrastructure bill that contained the cannabis-focused provisions.

DEA is also making headway with cannabis research 

On May 14, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) confirmed that it is almost finished reviewing applications that will grant federal authorization to growers who wish to cultivate the plant for research purposes.

The May 14 announcement explained how the DEA plans to “work [with manufacturers who meet legal requirements] to facilitate the production, storage, packaging, and distribution of [cannabis]” under relevant laws and regulations.

The agency affirms that it will “continue to prioritize efforts to evaluate the remaining applications for registration and expects additional approvals in the future.”

For more than 50 years, the only federally approved facility for research-focused cannabis cultivation has been the National Center for the Development of Natural Products at the University of Mississippi.

These latest efforts are “an important step to increase opportunities for medical and scientific research,” say DEA officials.