The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a bill to make it easier for cannabis research in states where it is legal, Politico reports.
The measure would amend the Controlled Substances Act to create a structure for, and remove limitations on, cannabis research. The bill directs The Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Justice to create a licensing program for additional federal cannabis producers. Currently, the federal government only allows the University of Mississippi to grow cannabis for research purposes. Once licensed, researchers would be allowed to submit their research to the Food and Drug Administration.
Additionally, the bill would speed up the wait times for cannabis research applications and reduce some regulations that researchers face when trying to get federal approval to study cannabis.
Last week, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Dr. Lyle Craker, of the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, against the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Attorney General William Barr, and Acting DEA Administrator Timothy Shea over the federal government’s failure to process cannabis research applications.
Dr. Sue Sisley, a cannabis researcher at Arizona’s Scottsdale Research Institute, is also suing the agency over its cannabis research policies.
The DEA said in March that it would issue new licenses for cannabis research after announcing plans to allow more cultivators in 2016. In 2019, then-Acting DEA Administrator Uttam Dhillon said that the DEA supports “additional research into marijuana and its components [and] believe registering more growers will result in researchers having access to a wider variety for study.” However, the DEA has still not issued any additional licenses.
In July, the House approved a highway infrastructure bill that included an amendment to give researchers a pathway to study cannabis products sourced from state-legal dispensaries; however, that language was removed in the Senate version.
Last week the chamber approved the MORE Act, which would end federal cannabis prohibition. The measure has an uphill battle in the Senate, which is currently controlled by Republicans. However, control of the Senate will be determined in two runoffs in Georgia next month.
The research bill was sponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Andy Harris (R-Md.) and received bi-partisan support in a voice vote.
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