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A new bill would help expand medical cannabis research

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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

A new bipartisan bill called the Medical Cannabis Research Act would make it so there are more places where cannabis can be produced for medical research. As things stand, there is only one facility producing cannabis for government-approved medical cannabis research at the University of Mississippi. This makes things difficult for researchers who often struggle to get cannabis for their research needs.

Michael Collins, interim director at the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, said that this bill could be a “step in the right direction.” He said that “federally approved research would enable marijuana products to be brought to market.” However, he does have some concerns with how the bill is currently written.

According to this bill, felons and those convicted of drug-related misdemeanors would not be able to help produce the cannabis that would be used for research. Since the War on Drugs disproportionately targeted communities of color, many see this as a way in which some people of color could be kept out of the medical cannabis research community.

“It’s egregious, unnecessary, and would perpetuate the race-based policies of the War on Drugs,” Collins said. “Drug Policy Alliance does not like the bill in its current form and will oppose unless changes are made.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) sponsored the bill, and he told Forbes that this part of the bill was included in order for it to get support from Republicans. Whether the Democrats will object and possibly kill the bill over it remains unclear.

“For many of my Republican colleagues, the most difficult marijuana reform vote to take is the first one,” Gaetz told Forbes. “I’m trying to create the most comfortable setting for marijuana skeptics to do something right by their constituents, and that process can yield imperfect legislation that is directionally correct.”

It seems pretty much everyone agrees expanding the number of places that can produce cannabis for research is a good idea, but there will likely be a debate over how people with a criminal record are treated. Though Republicans are starting to come around to the idea of legalizing cannabis in states across the country, many are still tied to the idea of being “tough on crime.” Rhetoric from Republican leaders like President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions certainly doesn’t steer them away from that tendency.

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A new bill would help expand medical cannabis research