A bipartisan marijuana research bill that’s scheduled for a House committee vote on Wednesday is poised to be amended to allow scientists to access cannabis products directly from state-legal markets for research purposes.
The Energy and Commerce Committee announced last week that members would be marking up the Medical Marijuana Research Act. But one day before the vote, an amendment in the nature of a substitute was released that contains several notable changes.
In general, the bill would accomplish two goals: First, it would establish a simplified registration process for researchers interested in studying cannabis, in part by reducing approval wait times, minimizing costly security requirements and eliminating additional layers of protocol review.
Second, it would expand the sources of research-grade cannabis that certified scientists would be able to obtain the products. That could resolve an issue identified by researchers and lawmakers, who complain that marijuana produced at the only existing federally authorized facility at the University of Mississippi is difficult to access and is chemically closer to hemp than cannabis available on the commercial market.
Initially, the legislation simply stipulated that researchers could access marijuana from additional federally approved private manufacturers. But the new proposed bipartisan amendment would provide researchers with access to cannabis from state-legal businesses under certain circumstances.
Under the substitute bill, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would have to “offer to qualified marijuana researchers marijuana products available through State authorized marijuana programs that are consistent with the guidance” outlined in the legislation. That requirement would only be enforced until the agency determined that the existing number of manufacturers could “ensure a sufficient supply of marijuana intended for medical research.”
The amended bill would give HHS 180 days to “issue guidance related to the use of marijuana from State authorized marijuana programs, including