On June 27, 2019, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) co-sponsored the Cannabidiol and Marijuana Research Expansion Act. Backed by the American Medical Association (AMA), this bipartisan bill helps bolster scientific research into marijuana and cannabidiol (CBD), one of active compounds in the cannabis plant. Some of the key provisions include:
- Reducing barriers to federally authorized marijuana research;
- Streamlining the development of FDA-approved medications derived CBD and marijuana;
- Allowing doctors to discuss the benefits of marijuana treatments for children and adults;
- Requiring the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to report to Congress about the effects of marijuana and provide recommendations to help facilitate medical research on marijuana and its components.
Legislative Trend Towards Changing Federal Marijuana Policies
The Cannabidiol and Marijuana Research Expansion Act is one of several legislative pushes for marijuana policy reform. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) filed the State Cannabis Commerce Act, which would allow interstate shipment of marijuana among states. Specifically, the bill would protect cannabis producers or consumers who transport marijuana between states, so long as both states have legal cannabis programs and affirmatively agree to the transportation. As more states legalize cannabis, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives approved the Blumenauer-McClintock-Norton amendment, a congressional rider to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. The amendment would shield state marijuana laws from federal interference by blocking the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s use of funds to prosecute in states that have legalized recreational use, cultivation, and sale of marijuana. The Senate will vote on the amendment next. Proponents of marijuana policy reform predict it stands a better chance of being passed since the amendment is attached to a larger piece of legislation. In the past, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment that similarly protected state-legal medical marijuana programs in 2014. The inclusion of recreational marijuana state programs signals a significant expansion to existing federal marijuana policies.