Whenever someone hears that the United States government maintains a marijuana farm that provides medicine for a few federal patients and research programs, it may seem like a tall tale, but it is no myth. Uncle Sam cultivates cannabis at the University of Mississippi and actually mails it to a handful of grandfathered/grandmothered participants in the Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program and provides it to the rare studies that get approved. However, too many scientific endeavors have been stymied by the process and the quality of the cannabis has been deemed subpar. Congress may be moving a bill to improve the bottleneck of Mississippi schwag by licensing more cannabis cultivators and researchers, as reported by Tom Angell in Forbes:
Sponsored by Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and 40 bipartisan cosponsors, the Medical Cannabis Research Act would require that the federal government issue more licenses to grow marijuana to be used in scientific studies, among other changes.
For the past half century, a farm at the University of Mississippi has been the sole legal source of cannabis for research. But scientists have often complained that it is difficult to obtain product from the facility and that it is often of low quality.
“The federal government should not stand in the way of collaboration that can help people live better lives,” Gaetz said in a phone interview about the proposed expansion, which will go before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. If enacted, the proposal will “increase the amount of research-grade cannabis available to unlock cures,” the congressman said. “This will be the first time that a cannabis reform bill will make it through the Judiciary Committee during Republican control of the Congress, ever.”
The Medical Cannabis Research Act (MCRA) is a good step in the right direction, but the bill isn’t perfect by any means, prohibiting people with a “conviction for a felony or drug-related misdemeanor” from being affiliated with research cultivation licensees and requiring cultivators to have letters of good standing from local law enforcement departments. We don’t need to go down the path of outlawing those harmed by the Drug War from participating in legal cannabis operations, nor do we want to provide a veto power, that can be abused, to those that have been arresting cannabis community members.
Drug reform advocates are lobbying to remove the problematic provisions from the MCRA and hopefully they will be successful, so federal research cultivation licensees are widely available. While the politics will take a while to shake out, it would be great to see the federal government expand research and help employ more cannabis cultivators that unlock new medicines and scientific developments. Someday soon, growing cannabis under the approval of Uncle Sam may just be a hot, lucrative profession.
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