U.S. Senate Passes Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act, Sends it to President Biden

The Senate today passed the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act, which would expand research into marijuana-derived medications.

H.R. 8454 passed the House of Representatives in July by an overwhelming vote of 325 to 95. The measure now goes to the desk of President Biden, who is expected to quickly sign it into law.

The senate bill was introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and passed the House under the leadership of Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Andy Harris (R-Md.). Passage of the bill in the House and Senate marks the first time a standalone piece of marijuana reform legislation has ever been sent to a president.

The measure is designed to facilitate research on marijuana and its potential health benefits. The bill will accomplish this by streamlining the application process for scientific marijuana studies and removing existing barriers for researchers that frequently slow the research process.

“There is substantial evidence that marijuana-derived medications can and are providing major health benefits.  Our bill will make it easier to study how these medications can treat various conditions, resulting in more patients being able to easily access safe medications,” Senator Feinstein said. “We know that cannabidiol-derived medications can be effective for conditions like epilepsy. This bill will help refine current medical CBD practices and develop important new applications. After years of negotiation, I’m delighted that we’re finally enacting this bill that will result in critical research that could help millions.”

“I’ve heard directly from Iowans who are desperately in search of treatment options for conditions like child epilepsy”, says Senator Grassley. “Unfortunately, many families have resorted to using untested, unregulated derivatives from the marijuana plant as a last resort to treat these conditions.” He continues: “Since 2015, I’ve pushed to expand medical research into marijuana derivatives such as cannabidiol to better understand their benefits and potential harms. This research is a critical step toward ensuring safe and effective therapies are also consistently regulated like any other prescription drug. I’m grateful that this bipartisan bill is now on its way to President Biden.”

“The medical community agrees that we need more research to learn about marijuana’s potential health benefits, but our federal laws today are standing in the way of us finding those answers,” said Senator Schatz. “Our bill, which is now set to become law, will remove excessive barriers that make it difficult for researchers to study the effectiveness and safety of marijuana, and hopefully, give patients more treatment options.”

“After working on the issue of cannabis reform for decades, finally the dam is starting to break”, said said Congressman Blumenauer, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “The passage of my Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act in the House and Senate represents a historic breakthrough in addressing the federal government’s failed and misguided prohibition of cannabis. As we have seen in state after state, the public is tired of waiting for the federal government to catch up. More than 155 million Americans—nearly half of our nation’s population—now reside in states where adult-use of cannabis is legal.”

Blumenauer continues: “For far too long, Congress has stood in the way of science and progress, creating barriers for researchers attempting to study cannabis and its benefits. At a time when more than 155 million Americans reside where adult-use of cannabis is legal at the state or local level and there four million registered medical marijuana users with many more likely to self-medicate, it is essential that we are able fully study the impacts of cannabis use.”

Congressman Andy Harris said, “As a physician who has conducted NIH-sponsored research, I am pleased that this bill has finally passed and that scientists will be able to research what medical marijuana can and cannot do. While there is evidence to suggest that medical marijuana may be beneficial in the treatment of some diseases like glaucoma and epilepsy, only scientific research will prove the veracity of the many claims regarding efficacy for other diseases. Despite lacking much scientific research, over three dozen states have already legalized medical marijuana, and the American public deserves to know the effect modern marijuana has on the human body. While I support additional research for the use of medical marijuana, my position on recreational marijuana remains the same – I categorically oppose it.”

In addition to Feinstein, Grassley and Schatz, the Senate bill is cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Background:

  • Cannabis containing more than 0.3 percent delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (commonly known as THC) is currently classified as a Schedule I drug. As a result, medical research is subject to stringent regulations that has impeded progress.
  • Few marijuana-derived products have been FDA-approved, and there is little available information about their interactions with other medications, appropriate doses or delivery mechanisms.
  • The goal of the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act is to ensure that research on CBD and other potentially beneficial marijuana-derived substances is based on sound science while also reducing regulatory barriers associated with conducting research on marijuana.
  • The bill also requires the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health to submit a report to Congress on the potential harms and benefits of marijuana use.