Medical Cannabis Research Act Inches Forward

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WASHINGTON — Bloomberg Politics reported Wednesday that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) will co-sponsor a bipartisan medical marijuana research bill. The Medical Cannabis Research Act was introduced by Rep. Timothy J. Walz (D-MN) on April 16 and currently has 39 sponsors.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) also signed on to the research bill and gave handouts to colleagues Tuesday evening detailing the legislation. The bill gives permission to the Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct research on medical marijuana and recommend patients for clinical trials.

The measure would provide safe harbor for medical marijuana cultivators conducting research and their patients. The bill would also increase the number of federally approved research facilities such as hospitals and universities so that institutions aren't at risk of losing program funding from the federal government.

The tide is changing quickly regarding attitudes about marijuana, and many politicians are voicing their support for the drug. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions requesting that he end the Drug Enforcement Agency's impediment to medical marijuana research, according to a press release published on the Utah senator's website.

The letter informs the attorney general that research on marijuana is essential and evidence found thus far has prompted the U.S. Surgeon General, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the FDA, the CDC, the National Highway Safety Administration, the National Institute of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the National Academies of Sciences, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, all to request more medical marijuana research be conducted.

Vets Say Pot Helps PTSD

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According to the letter, 92 percent of military veterans support medical marijuana research. Veterans report that marijuana helps to alleviate symptoms from PTSD, and the letter states that the Department of Veterans' Affairs knows that many vets use marijuana for relief from physical injuries and PTSD resulting from war. More than 20 vets commit suicide daily, and the senators wrote that the heroes of America deserve a scientific assessment of marijuana.

The American Legion is big supporter of medical marijuana and has repeatedly requested that Congress write legislation to reschedule cannabis because it is currently scheduled in the same class as heroin. The Schedule I classification makes marijuana illegal under federal law, which restricts medical research.

The senators also said in the letter that research is needed to resolve critical public health and safety issues like the impact of marijuana on developing brains and ways of testing impaired drivers.

A news conference is expected sometime on Thursday with the sponsors of the bill.