Only a few weeks have passed since President Joseph Biden directed that a medical review be conducted on the categorization of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act and also issued mass pardons for simple cannabis possession convicts. Now the upper chamber of Congress has approved a bill easing marijuana research, and that bill is headed to the president for enactment.
The passage of this bill is notable because it is the first time that a bill focused on marijuana policy reform has succeeded and been forwarded to the president. Before the vote was cast on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer mentioned that there were ongoing productive discussions on broader marijuana reforms that could be passed during this lame duck session of Congress.
H.R. 8454, or the Medical Marijuana & Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act, was introduced in July this year in the House of Representatives. Its progress was swift in the lower legislative chamber, and it was then sent to the upper legislative chamber where it was passed last week.
It should be noted that this bill would have been passed earlier in the Senate, but one lawmaker, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), held it up in September by objecting to the expedited way in which the legislation was being handled with agreement from both sides of the political divide. Cornyn’s objection wasn’t premised on anything within that law, but he was in a way protesting against the failure to handle other pieces of legislation that he had interest in. His hold was terminated last week, and the bill was then put to a vote
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, was one of the House sponsors of this law. He revealed that the need for compromise led him to accept the removal of a provision granting researchers permission to use marijuana sourced from the same state-legal dispensaries that consumers access their marijuana from. The motivation for this clause was to allow the findings of any research conducted to depict as closely as possible the real-world benefits or side effects if any that consumers are exposed to when they use the marijuana currently available in jurisdictions where it is allowed.
This law imposes a 60-day timeline within which the attorney general can approve an application for a proposed study or write to the applicant asking for additional information prior to making a decision on the matter. It also makes it easier for scientists and researchers to gain access to larger volumes of marijuana for research purposes. Physicians will also be able to discuss medical marijuana with patients in states where marijuana is legal, among other reforms that the bill proposes.
It remains to be seen by industry actors such as Flora Growth Corp. (NASDAQ: FLGC) how the passage of this law translates into tangible benefits as they conduct their own R&D programs aimed at better serving the consumers in the markets where they operate.
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