Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill aimed at allowing researchers to have access to the marijuana available commercially in states where legal recreational, and/or medical marijuana programs exist. This new legislation would mark a major shift from the current practice where researchers can only use the cannabis supplied by a federally licensed manufacturer in Mississippi.
The primary goal of the marijuana provision, which is found deeply embedded in an infrastructure bill detailed in a more than 2,000-page document, is to make it possible for marijuana products to be transported and distributed across state lines, including in states that don’t yet have state-legal marijuana markets in place.
The INVEST in America Act also contains provisions that would require states with marijuana programs to establish mechanisms for teaching residents to avoid driving while under the influence of marijuana.
The section on setting up highway safety education programs didn’t go down well with marijuana law reform advocates for a number of reasons. First, a congressional research team authored a report stating that there wasn’t any conclusive evidence that the consumption of marijuana resulted in impaired driving.
Secondly, marijuana policy reform advocates are opposed to the highway safety education provision because it implies that the legalization of marijuana results in an increase of impaired driving. If anything, marijuana is also consumed in states that haven’t enacted marijuana legalization measures, so any education efforts aimed at curbing or preventing impaired driving would also benefit the states where legal marijuana markets don’t exist.
During the debate of the bill on the floor of Congress, numerous amendments were suggested. Many of them were rejected or withdrawn, while others were adopted.
For example, an amendment that would provide funding for a pilot program enabling states to test for drugs in wastewater was included. The funds would also enable municipal authorities to design public health programs in accordance with the findings of the drugs tests done.
All in all, the provisions giving researchers access to commercially available marijuana in states with regulated cannabis markets was welcomed by marijuana policy reform advocates. For example, NORML said that it was hard to comprehend why scientists couldn’t access the marijuana available in state-legal dispensaries yet ordinary residents could walk in and buy these products. Scientific research needed to be conducted using the same products that people are consuming in order to get results which were applicable to the community, NORML argued.
The DEA has also taken steps to increase the number of suppliers of research-grade marijuana products. It now remains to be seen whether the Senate will maintain the pro-marijuana provisions in the transportation bill. Analysts say entities like Sugarmade, Inc. (OTCQB: SGMD) will be hoping that the law sails through so that researchers don’t have to go through endless hoops to get approval for their planned studies on marijuana.
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