Politics

Marijuana Research Just Got a Big Boost From Unlikely Supporters

July 9th 2015

By:
Kyle Jaeger

For years the federal government has resisted proposals from researchers who sought funds to support marijuana-related studies. But the partisan barrier that has routinely obstructed congressional debate on drug reform legislation appears to be crumbling. Recently, lawmakers on opposite ends of the political spectrum—Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)—are now co-sponsoring an amendment meant to promote government research efforts for marijuana."

 
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"Their amendment would remove roadblocks for agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Drug Enforcement Administration to study the effects of medical marijuana," the Hill's Sarah Ferris explains. "While the government does not prohibit research on marijuana, it is classified as a high-risk drug, requiring scientists to register with the DEA."

 

The ideological differences between Harris and Blumenauer are significant. On one hand, Harris has actively opposed measures such as the loosening of marijuana laws in D.C., "despite local voters overwhelmingly approving it on the November ballot," the Washington Post reports. On the other hand, you have Blumenauer, the Democratic representative from Oregon, where recreational marijuana was recently legalized.

Blumenauer previously voiced his support for the so-called "medical marijuana amendment," which was approved by the House in December and effectively prohibits the DEA from intervening in state-run medical marijuana operations. "Now we need the Administration to stop targeting marijuana above and beyond other drugs when it comes to research," he said in a recent statement.

"By increasing access for scientists who are conducting studies, we end the Catch-22 of opponents claiming they can't support medical marijuana because there's not enough research, but blocking research because they don't support medical marijuana," Blumenauer said.

In states where medical marijuana is legal, hundreds of thousands of patients have found that the consumption of cannabis—whether smoked, vaporized, or ingested in the form of edibles—has proven more effective (and arguably safer) in treating ails "ranging from cancer to seizures to hepatitis C and chronic pain," the New York Times explains. And yet there have been "few rigorous studies showing whether the drug is a fruitful treatment for those or any other conditions."

The Catch-22 that Blumenauer described has stopped former reform proposals dead in their tracks for decades, with legalization and decriminalization efforts repeatedly defeated due to the paradoxical policy rationale. For advocates like Tom Angell, chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, the advancement of the bipartisan bill on marijuana research comes as welcomed news.

"It's great to see that even the most ardent opponents of legalization are finally admitting that it's wrong for the federal government to block research on marijuana's medical benefits," Angell told ATTN:. "All we've ever asked is that marijuana policy be dictated by science and fairness, and we feel confident that research will continue to show that keeping cannabis in Schedule I is completely inappropriate."