Michael Jolley

Sen. Orrin Hatch Introduces Bill to Allow Comprehensive Federal MMJ Research

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican and senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor urging that his colleagues support his bill to encourage cannabis research and that the federal government considers cannabis therapies as a tool in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

“In Utah and across the nation, opioid abuse continues to ravage good, hardworking families who have fallen captive to the tyranny of addiction. While some people are using these prescription drugs appropriately, others are abusing them at alarming rates,” the former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman said. “Because Utahns have watched their family members, friends, and neighbors grapple with this epidemic, many are seeking non-narcotic alternatives that can help with pain. Medical marijuana is just one such alternative. And after careful, deliberative thought, I’ve concluded that it’s an alternative worth pursuing.”

While Hatch said he is “strongly against the use of recreational marijuana,” he is concerned that, in the “zeal to enforce the law,” lawmakers have blinded themselves “to the medicinal benefits of natural substances like cannabis.”

“While I certainly do not support the use of marijuana for recreational purposes, the evidence shows that cannabis possesses medicinal properties that can truly change people’s lives for the better,” Hatch said on the Senate Floor. “And I believe, Mr. President, that we would be remiss if we threw out the baby with the bathwater.”

He said the Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act of 2017, or MEDS Act, “updates the law for the 21st century, allowing for groundbreaking research on the potentially life-saving benefits of medical marijuana.”

“The MEDS Act would encourage this research through reduced regulatory interference, and it would expand sources of research-grade marijuana with the assurance of a quality-controlled product,” he explained. “My proposal would also allow for the commercial production of drugs developed from marijuana once they have been approved by the [Food and Drug Administration.”

Despite his support of medical cannabis reforms, Hatch was adamant against adult use and purported the prohibitionist claims that cannabis “can lead to broader drug abuse.”

Hatch is joined by Democratic Senators Brian Schatz, and Chris Coons, and Republican Senators Thom Tillis, and Cory Gardner in sponsorship of the measure.

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