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Christopher Burns

Congress to Consider MMJ Research Expansions

The Medical Cannabis Research Act, a bipartisan bill to expand medical cannabis research, is scheduled to receive a vote by the House Judiciary Committee this week, Tom Angell reports for Forbes.

Primarily, the bill would require the federal government to issue more licenses to grow research-grade cannabis. Should it make it to the House floor from the Judiciary Committee, it would be the first piece of cannabis law reform to do so during a Republican-controlled Congress. The bill, however, has several flaws that were added as part of the campaign for bipartisan support.

Most importantly, the bill bars any individual with a “conviction for a felony or drug-related misdemeanor” from participating in any cannabis research program. It also requires participants to produce “letters of good standing” from local law enforcement agencies — law enforcement agencies often come out strongly against such reforms.

Most cannabis activists take issue with continuing to shortchange those who were most affected by the Drug War, most often minorities and other already-disadvantaged groups.

Those pushing for the passage of the bill said that setting a precedent of Republican support for cannabis law reform is the most important task at hand. Cannabis advocates disagree, however, saying that creating a precedent of banning certain people on a federal level from participating in the cannabis industry is a risk not worth taking.

“For many of my Republican colleagues, the most difficult marijuana reform vote to take is the first one. 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.” — Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), sponsor of the bill, via Forbes

The Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on the bill on Thursday.


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