Senate passes cannabis research bill

The U.S. Senate has passed a bill that would streamline cannabis research. The bill would allow the Food and Drug Administration to study cannabis products. The bill passed with a bipartisan vote, and it will now need to pass in the House of Representatives to become law.

“This bipartisan bill is critical to better understanding the marijuana plant and its potential benefits and side effects,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said in a statement. “It will empower the FDA to analyze CBD and medical marijuana products in a safe and responsible way so that the American public can decide whether to utilize them in the future based on sound scientific data.”

Morgan Fox, political director at NORML, told Cannabis News Box that the House version of this bill is actually preferable.

“As was the case in 2020, the House version is the far more substantive bill and the one that would have the greatest real-world effect in facilitating clinical cannabis trials in the United States,” Fox said. “The [Senate] bill basically transfers regulatory authority away from DEA and to the US Attorney General. Under this proposal, it is the AG, not DEA, who will approve or disprove applicants looking to clinically study cannabis and/or manufacture cannabis for research purposes.”

Fox said that the AG would have 60 days to approve or deny license applications. As things stand, the DEA makes this decision and there is no timeline for them to respond. He said this could be preferable “if a sympathetic AG is holding the position.”

“By contrast, the House bill addresses the crux of the problem — that is, Schedule I licensed researchers who want to perform clinical work with cannabis products wish to assess the actual cannabis products that people are consuming in legal states,” Fox said. “This bill permits this by allowing federally licensed researchers for the first time to legally access state-authorized products in clinical studies.”

That would open up the supply of cannabis researchers can use for their studies, which is currently highly limited and not of a high quality when they do obtain it for their research. Fox said the House bill also transfers cultivation licensing authority to the AG and places no limit on the number of cultivation licenses that agency can grant.

If the House passes its version of this bill, it will have to be sent back to the Senate to be debated again. The House is expected to vote on this legislation soon.