November 17, 2022

Senate Passes Bipartisan Marijuana Research Bill

Bill passed House in July, now goes to President Biden for signature

WASHINGTON The Senate passed by voice vote the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act, a bill introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) to expand research into medications derived from the marijuana plant. 
 
The goal of the bill – which passed the House of Representatives in July by a strong bipartisan vote of 325-95 under the leadership of Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Andy Harris (R-Md.) – is 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.  
 
 “I’ve heard directly from Iowans who are desperately in search of treatment options for conditions like child epilepsy. Unfortunately, many families have resorted to using untested, unregulated derivatives from the marijuana plant as a last resort to treat these conditions. 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,” Grassley said. 
 
“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. 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, Feinstein said. 
 
“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. 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, Schatz said. 
 
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. 
  • In 2016, as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley convened a hearing examining the potential medical benefits of CBD, and has continuously worked since then to expand research opportunities through legislation.