U.S. Capital

Kevin Burkett

MMJ Research Expansion Bill Passes House Committee

A bill requiring the expansion of medical cannabis research by the U.S. federal government has passed committee and moved to the full House floor, according to a Tom Angell Forbes report.

It is the first bill of its kind to pass that committee.

The most contentious part of the bill was language that bans anyone from working in the expanded cannabis research program who has been convicted of a felony or drug-related misdemeanor. Cannabis advocates strongly opposed the provision, which could cause the bill to stall on the House floor.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia), who co-sponsored the bill, would not remove the language without forcing a vote on the matter, which others declined.

“There is no legitimate health or public safety justification for the inclusion of this language and we urge you to strike this unnecessary, punitive ban on individuals with previous drug law violations.” — American Civil Liberties Union, in a letter to the committee, via Forbes

The primary sponsor of the bill, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), claimed that the restrictions on drug convicts weren’t included in initial drafts of the bill but  were suggested by people in the cannabis industry who, said Gaetz, “wanted to raise the bar” and keep out “people who wandered out of their drug circle or hacky sack endeavor.”

It’s unclear who exactly in the cannabis industry made the suggestion to “raise the bar.” Director of Communications for the National Cannabis Industry Association Morgan Fox said his organization “absolutely did not suggest that and does not support that restriction.”

Meanwhile, advocates say this bill is a “drop in the bucket” for cannabis policy and that many studies already contradict cannabis’ Schedule I classification, indicating that this bill is too little, too late.

At the very least, the bill’s Republican sponsorship and historic movement out of committee is yet another sign of the prohibition era’s diminishing reach.

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