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Sarah Climaco

Federal Bill Would Allow CBD Research, Entrench Pharmaceutical Companies

The leaders of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), have introduced the Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act, which they say will support research on the potential benefits of CBD by allowing it to be conducted using Schedule II registration.

However, by reclassifying CBD, the measure – if approved – would likely put that research in the hands of pharmaceutical companies. Notably, opioid-derived drugs such as fentanyl, morphine, and codeine fall into the Schedule II category. THC would remain a Schedule I substance.

The measure would require the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to complete an analysis of the potential therapeutic value of CBD within one year from the bill’s passage; create a pathway for commercial production of pharmaceutical drugs containing CBD; and require the Department of Health and Human Services to expand research on CBD and other non-psychoactive components of cannabis.

Under the measure, accredited research institutions, medical schools, and practitioners – in addition to pharmaceutical companies – could apply to conduct CBD medical research.

“Cumbersome research regulations have made it difficult to conduct research on the potential medical benefits of marijuana,” Feinstein said in a press release. “I strongly believe such research is necessary, especially for cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component of marijuana. This bill paves the way for new research to be conducted with greater ease to determine if cannabidiol can be an effective medication for serious illnesses such as intractable epilepsy.”

The Food and Drug Administration last month recognized trials for GW Pharmaceuticals’ anti-seizure drug Epidiolex, which is expected to be fast-tracked by the agency; however, to date, there are no approved cannabis-derived medicines approved at the federal level. Sativex, a GW Pharma-produced CBD-based drug was approved in the United Kingdom in 2011.

The bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee.

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