Cannabis research-promoting infrastructure bill signed by Biden could boost access to dispensary products

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Monday, November,15, President Joe Biden signed a broad infrastructure bill that contained provisions designed to permit research into cannabis acquired from state-legal dispensaries.

As per the bill, researchers would no longer need to rely on government-grown cannabis. Additionally, the large-scale measure urges states with legalization laws to teach people the dangers of impaired driving.

Interestingly, Biden went ahead and signed the legislation without precisely mentioning the cannabis provisions. Based on details of the infrastructure measure, the transportation secretary would need to collaborate with the attorney general (AG) and secretary of health and human services (HHS) to conduct a public report.

That report, which must be finalized within two years of the bill’s adoption, needs to incorporate recommendations on enabling scientists to obtain retail-level cannabis for impaired driving studies.

More cannabis reform efforts are materializing out of Congress

The news of Biden signing the wide-reaching infrastructure bill emerges amid numerous cannabis-focused advancements in Congress. For example, in September, a federal cannabis legalization bill the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act was approved by the House Judiciary Committee.

The MORE Act is just one chunk of legislation that stands to transform the cannabis industry outlook. The full chamber also proceeded to approve a defense spending bill in September that features banking protections; this measure would effectively enable financial institutions to collaborate alongside state-legal cannabis businesses.

The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee pushed things in another direction this November, when the Department of Veterans Affairs was instructed to carry out clinical trials into the medical qualities of cannabis for military veterans who suffer from chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Biden’s chosen FDA commissioner acknowledges cannabis’ therapeutic potential

Back in February of this year, Biden told supporters that his administration would prioritize cannabis decriminalization. In addition to this, he vowed to expunge the criminal records of people who had previously been charged with a cannabis-related crime.

Then, on Friday, November 12, the 47th President of the United States declared his intentions to nominate a brand new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner. What’s most interesting about this announcement is that Biden’s chosen FDA commissioner recognizes the therapeutic powers of cannabis. 

In fact, American cardiologist Robert Califf who formerly served as head of the FDA under the Obama administration previously prescribed a patient with a cannabinoid-based drug when he was performing doctoral services.

Although Califf had previously been tight-lipped on the subject of cannabis, he gave the green plant his seal of approval during a 2016 federally-hosted research summit.

“We understand that people have identified a number of possible uses of [cannabis] and derived products. For example, AIDS wasting, epilepsy, neuropathic pain, treatment of spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, cancer and chemotherapy-induced nausea,” explained Califf. “And I had the chance to prescribe some of this in my cardiology practice in people with extreme heart failure who get a wasting cachectic syndrome.”

Although the FDA has not yet deemed cannabis “safe and effective for any indication,” Califf noted that further studies could paint the plant in a brighter light.