Anyone that has seen the marijuana grown by the United States government for the few remaining federally-recognized patients and the limited research projects approved over the years, knows that it is of extremely poor quality. The Medical Cannabis Research Act (MCRA), sponsored by Republican Representative Matt Gaetz, and passed out of the House Judiciary Committee, will improve the amount of cannabis grown for scientific studies and should improve the quality by licensing more qualified cultivators as Tom Angell reports in Forbes:
Under current U.S. policy, a University of Mississippi farm has for the past 50 years been the only legal source of marijuana for studies. But researchers have often complained that it is too hard to get approval to use the facility’s cannabis products, and that they are often of low quality.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, in the closing months of the Obama presidency, moved to create a process for the federal government to issue additional research cultivation licenses. But the Justice Department under Sessions has blocked the DEA from acting on the more than two dozen applications that have been submitted.
Gaetz’s bill, if enacted into law, would force Sessions’s hand by requiring the granting of more marijuana cultivation licenses. It now heads to the House floor.
In addition to the requirement to issue additional cultivation licenses, the bill clarifies that Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors can discuss the medical marijuana with their patients and can refer them to participate in scientific studies on the drug’s effects.
The MCRA is a step in the right direction as it will help patients, improve our scientific knowledge of the cannabis plant, and create more jobs, but it is a shame that language was included that bans those with previous drug convictions from being associated with the licensed cultivation sites. Also problematic is the requirement that local law enforcement must sign off on the licensees as this can create a bottleneck and a situation ripe with cronyism. Hopefully, the problematic provisions will be removed before the bill becomes law, but it certainly is a good sign for the cannabis movement when conservative Republicans are now on board with forcing Donald Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions to license more medical cannabis producers.
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