Congressman Matt Gaetz Introduces the Medical Cannabis Research Act

January 16, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01) today introduced the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019. The bipartisan legislation unlocks the potential to research the cures offered by medical cannabis, which could prove beneficial to veterans, the chronically ill, and the elderly. The legislation does not change the legal status of cannabis, and does not interfere with federal, state, or local cannabis laws.

In the 115th Congress, the House Judiciary Committee passed the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018 and sent it to the House floor for a vote — making it the first cannabis-related legislation considered by a Republican-led Judiciary Committee in history.

Currently, cannabis research is stymied by laws that unfairly prevent many of America’s great research institutions from studying cannabis, despite its promise as a treatment for nausea, epilepsy, muscular sclerosis, and a host of other conditions. Cannabis has the potential to mitigate opioid abuse and addiction, and early studies indicate that it may even help veterans who suffer from PTSD. By giving research institutions “safe harbor” — keeping them safe from legal retribution — the Medical Cannabis Research Act will greatly assist American researchers unlock cures that cannabis may provide. Just last month, the FDA approved a cannabis-derived medicine for certain types of epilepsy. Future research is likely to unlock other cures.

Cosponsors of the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019 include: Congressmen Darren Soto (FL-09), Ken Buck (CO-04), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), and Diana DeGette (CO-01).

“For too long, Congress has faced a dilemma with cannabis-related legislation: we cannot reform cannabis law without researching its safety, its efficacy, and its medical uses — but we cannot perform this critical research without first reforming cannabis law. The Medical Cannabis Research Act helps break that logjam, allowing researchers to study medical cannabis without fear of legal jeopardy.

This bipartisan legislation will make a tremendous difference to researchers nationwide, who may finally be able to develop cures for illnesses that affect many of America’s most vulnerable populations. I fully believe that this bill has a chance to pass this Congress and be signed into law by the President, who expressed his support for medical cannabis during his campaign. I thank my colleagues for their support, and look forward to passing sweeping cannabis reform legislation this Congress,” Rep. Gaetz said.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON THE MEDICAL CANNABIS RESEARCH ACT

Currently, all federally-approved studies of medical cannabis get their product from one source, and it is extremely subpar. It is weak and often moldy, which can cause illness. In addition to being subpar, federally-grown cannabis is scarce; there is not enough product. This legislation requires the Attorney General to annually assess whether there is an adequate and uninterrupted supply of research-grade cannabis and be sure that there are at least four federally approved manufacturers at any given time.

Some institutions (like universities) want to research cannabis, but cannot do so because cannabis research threatens their federal funding. This legislation includes “safe harbor” for researchers and institutions studying cannabis, and for patients in federally-approved medical cannabis clinical trials.

Even though VA doctors/staff are not prohibited from sharing information about federally-approved cannabis clinical trials with patients, many VA offices believe mentioning these trials is illegal. This legislation codifies that healthcare providers at the VA are authorized to provide information about federally-approved cannabis clinical trials, and they are also allowed to fill out forms for veterans to participate in these trials.

Most importantly, this legislation does not interfere with federal laws, state laws, or law enforcement. This bill makes no changes to the legal status of cannabis and simply unlocks the potential for research into a compound that could prove beneficial to veterans, chronically ill persons, and the elderly.

 

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