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The Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a marijuana bill, but not the federal legalization measure that advocates have been eagerly awaiting Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to introduce. Rather, it is a modest bipartisan piece of legislation that is simply intended to promote marijuana research.

The bill – sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) – is titled Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act. He authorized the plenary assembly unanimously, without debate.

This would streamline the application process for researchers who wish to study the plant and encourage the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop drugs derived from cannabis.

It would also specify that physicians are permitted to discuss the risks and benefits of marijuana with patients and would require the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to submit a report on these potential health benefits, as well as on barriers to cannabis research and how to overcome those barriers.

“Current rules and regulations make it difficult for researchers to study how marijuana and marijuana-derived drugs can best be used to treat various conditions,” Feinstein said in a press release. “This important legislation will cut red tape around the research process, helping to safely provide patients with FDA-approved marijuana-derived drugs.”

Grassley said the legislation “is essential to better understand the marijuana plant and its potential benefits and side effects.”

“This will allow the FDA to test CBD and medical marijuana products in a safe and responsible manner so that the American public can decide whether to use them in the future based on sound science.” -he declares. “Marijuana research is widely supported by my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and it’s a smart step forward in tackling this current drug abuse agenda.”

Schatz said, “The medical community agrees that we need more research to learn more about the potential health benefits of marijuana, but our federal laws today prevent us from finding those answers.

“We are now on the verge of removing the undue barriers that prevent researchers from studying the efficacy and safety of marijuana and hopefully providing patients with more treatment options,” he said. -he declares.

An earlier version of the bill also passed the Senate unanimously in 2020. It was reintroduced in February 2021.

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In general, the first section of the bill concerns the application process for institutions seeking federal authorization for marijuana research. The United States Attorney General would have 60 days to approve a given request or request additional information from the requester. It would also create a fast track for researchers requesting larger quantities of Schedule I drugs.

The second major section of the bill concerns FDA approval of drugs derived from marijuana. One way to encourage such developments is to allow “accredited medical and osteopathic schools, practitioners, research institutes and manufacturers listed in Schedule I” to grow their own cannabis for research purposes, indicates a summary.

The Drug Enforcement Administration would get the mandate to approve applications to manufacture drugs derived from marijuana and approved by the FDA under the bill. Manufacturers would also be allowed to import cannabis to facilitate research into the plant’s therapeutic potential.

Finally, a fourth section would require HHS to examine the health benefits and risks of marijuana as well as policies that impede research on cannabis grown in legal states and provide recommendations for overcoming these barriers.

The bill further states that it “shall not be a violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) for a state-licensed physician to discuss” the risks and benefits of marijuana and marijuana-derived products. cannabis with patients.

Ahead of final passage Thursday, the Senate passed an amendment to remove a provision from the bill that would have changed federal law to clarify that the definition of marijuana does not include “the synthetic equivalent of cannabidiol derived from hemp.” which contains less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol.

Separate cannabis research legislation was approved by the House in 2020. A major difference in the respective bills is that the measure passed by the House contained provisions that would allow scientists to obtain cannabis from dispensaries. state legal for research purposes. This was designed to help them avoid dependence on marijuana produced at the only federally licensed manufacturing facility at the University of Mississippi.

Other original co-sponsors of the bill include Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

The proposal has been endorsed by mainstream medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, and American Society of Addiction Medicine, as well as pro-legalization groups such as Americans for Safe Access, Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies and NORML. .

Separately, Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced legislation in December 2021 that would also aim to make it easier for scientists to research Schedule I drugs like marijuana and psilocybin.

The Senate’s passage of this marijuana research bill comes the same day House leaders proposed a separate measure to legalize marijuana federally and promote social fairness in the industry on a list of bills due for a floor vote next week. That legislation — the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) — passed the House in 2020. The new version was also presented to the panel of Nadler in September 2021.

Meanwhile, advocates and stakeholders are eagerly awaiting the formal introduction of a separate Senate legalization bill that is being finalized by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), etc. . CAOA)—in April.

Also in Congress, a separate bill to tax and regulate marijuana is also in play this session. Representative Nancy Mace (R-SC) is sponsoring this legislation, and she said in a recent interview that she has received assurances from Democratic leaders that her State Reform Act will be heard.

Read the text of the amendment to the Cannabis Research Bill that the Senate passed:

Federal marijuana legalization bill officially slated for House vote next week

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