Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and 40 bipartisan cosponsors are scheduled to vote on the Medical Cannabis Research Act, a bill that will create more opportunities for medical marijuana benefits. The act would issue more licenses for marijuana growth that would be used in scientific studies.
For the past 50 years, a small farm at the University of Mississippi has been the only legal way of getting cannabis for scientific research. Researches have been complaining that the University only has a small amount and it is low quality compared to some of the other strands that are being used illegally.
Gaetz is supporting this bill because he feels that the federal government should not interfere with the prospect of people living better lives. He continues to state that the bill will increase the availability of research-grade cannabis in the effort to find more cures for diseases (read our recent post about Marijuana and Parkison’s here).
While this a bipartisan bill, this is the first time that there’s been a push for marijuana reform during a Republican Congress. Drug reform advocates do have some issues with the bill but Gaetz calls these things technical and doesn’t expect much pushback. Reformers have concerns with provisions such as people with “a conviction of a felony or drug-related misdemeanor” are not allowed to participate in research. Also, they do not like the clause that says newly licenses manufacturers have to get a letter of good standing from their local law enforcement.
While on the surface this might seem harmless, civil rights and social justice activists marijuana charges are disproportionately against African Americans and other people of color. Therefore, this bill prohibits racial equality when it comes to marijuana research.
But Gaetz believes without these inclusions GOP lawmakers would not be on board with the bill. However, those on the opposing side are worried that if the Act passes Attorney General Sessions would be responsible for handing out these new licenses. He already has blocked the new permits filed during the Obama Administration.
One important aspect of the bill to note is that the legislation allows for the Department of Veteran Affairs doctors are invited to join in the scientific research to see how medical marijuana can be used in the military.