Gage Skidmore

‘Tea-Party’ Congressman to Propose Legislation to Help Marijuana Researchers Access Drug

U.S. Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) is leading a coalition of lawmakers who plan to introduce legislation this week aimed at making it easier for prospective marijuana researchers to get Department of Justice approval to study the therapeutic benefits of the drug, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Under the plan, federal regulators would have two months to approve or deny research applications.

Harris was a vocal opponent against the district creating a taxed-and-regulated marijuana market in 2014, but the Johns Hopkins-trained anesthesiologist now says his “frustration” with legalizing medical cannabis is due to the lack of scientific research “about what it’s good for and what it’s not good for.” Harris attached language to a 2014 spending bill that prevented D.C. from regulating marijuana distribution despite its newly-legal status.

“I personally think it is the drug of choice in very, very few situations,” Harris said in the report. “Can it be useful in some situations? Probably. We haven’t really defined those very clearly.”

He noted that there is not “good data supporting widespread use,” however, part of the reason for the lack of data is researchers have a difficult time procuring the drug thanks to strict federal regulations and pushback from the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Harris is being challenged for his seat in the upcoming election by libertarians, who are pro marijuana, and they say his anti-pot stance is partly the reason they are stepping up to challenge him. According to a report from the Washingtonian, a January poll found Harris had about half the support of challenger Michael Smigiel (R) – 23 percent to 58 percent, respectively.

The measure is being supported by members of both parties, including Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). A same-as bill is being proposed in the Senate by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE).    

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