Congress Proposes Bill on Marijuana Research Funding

Date August 4, 2022
Authors Eric T. Grischow
Categories

The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act would improve access to funding for marijuana research.

The Cannabis industry has a long history of encountering multiple obstacles in its attempt to do legitimate business. Of course, the main obstacle is that the U. S. Government still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, meaning any form of marijuana, including medical-grade marijuana, cannot be legally prescribed or sold in the U.S., and anyone caught buying or selling it is subject to federal penalties.

In recent years, many states have enacted legislation legalizing marijuana. Nineteen states, Washington, DC, and Guam have legalized recreational marijuana, and South Dakota, which voted for legalization in 2020—the measure was overthrown—is likely to vote on the issue again this November. Most of those that have legalized recreational marijuana have launched adult-use cannabis sales, and three more—Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont—will likely do so later this year.

But even as decriminalization and legalizations efforts have been increasingly successful, hurdles to cannabis businesses of all kinds have remained: applying for licenses, finding the real estate, building out facilities, finding banks that will make loans or even take deposits, state as well as federal regulations.

Research funding and focus history

Another hurdle inhibiting the growth of the industry is the availability of research. Because Cannabis is a Schedule 1 drug, federal funding for research is limited and extremely politicized. Estimates have overall cannabis research funding in the United States increasing from about $30 million in 2000 to more than $143 million in 2018, but most federal funding has been dedicated to determining the health benefits or harms of these products.

According to Science magazine (https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.369.6508.1155), an “analysis of cannabis research funding in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom has found that $1.56 billion was directed to the topic between 2000 and 2018—with about half of the money spent on understanding the potential harms of the recreational drug. Just over $1 billion came from the biggest funder, the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which doled out more money for research on cannabis misuse and its negative effects than for studies of cannabis and cannabis-derived chemicals as a therapeutic drug.”

Congressional proposal to expand research funds

A new bill in Congress, the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act (H.R.8454), would improve access to funding for marijuana research. The bill establishes a separate registration process to facilitate research on marijuana. Central to the proposal are provisions that would streamline the application process for researchers. The U.S. attorney general would have 60 days to approve or disapprove an application, or to request more information from the applicant. It would also make it easier for researchers to gain access to larger quantities of cannabis.

On July 27, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act. Representative Andy Harris, MD says, “This bill makes it easier to do the necessary, rigorous medical research—just like is done for any other drug that has a claim of efficacy in this country. The American public deserves to know what medical marijuana is useful for because, for anyone with those conditions where it is found to be useful, it could be a godsend—but for other conditions where the claims won’t be found to be valid with rigorous research, it would be found to be ineffective.

If the U.S. Government conducts more research, it could open the door for prohibition to end. If not prohibition, it could bring a broader understanding and vision for users of cannabis products, as well as the physicians who are recommending these products. At the very least, it will help promote cannabis as a replacement for opioids.

If you have questions on Marijuana Research Funding, please contact the HBK Cannabis Solutions.

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