Cannabis Law Prof Blog

Editor: Franklin G. Snyder
Texas A&M University
School of Law

Saturday, September 16, 2017

GOP Senator Hatch "rolls out" new bill addressing potential medicinal benefits of marijuana


OrrinHatchGOP Senator Orrin Hatch addressed the members of the Senate on Wednesday, urging them to recognize the potential
medicinal benefits of marijuana. Hatch's bill, the Marijuana Effective Drug Study (MEDS) Act of 2017 aims to remove the
regulatory barriers that have significantly impeded scientific research on the possible benefits of marijuana. Marijuana, currently classified as a Schedule I controlled substance with no current accepted medical value, has not yet been given proper attention by the medical and scientific communities due to the enormous hurdles researchers must clear in order to comply with federal regulations associated with studying the drug. In order to conduct clinical research on marijuana, researchers must obtain a DEA license and FDA approval. However, what has proved to be most difficult to obtain is research-grade marijuana that can only be sought from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). 

In his speech to the Senate, Hatch, a devout Mormon from Utah, maintained his opposition to the legalization of recreational marijuana while emphasizing the need for legitimate medical and scientific research of the drug, recognizing that what little research available has provided evidence of its potential benefits. If passed, Hatch's MEDS bill would require the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to develop and publish recommendations for good manufacturing practices for growing and producing marijuana for research. Fortune contributor Kirsten Korosec, provides excerpts of the Senator's remarks in her article

It’s high time to address research into medical marijuana. Our country has experimented with a variety of state solutions without properly delving into the weeds on the effectiveness, safety, dosing, administration, and quality of medical marijuana. All the while, the federal government strains to enforce regulations that sometimes do more harm than good. To be blunt, we need to remove the administrative barriers preventing legitimate research into medical marijuana, which is why I’ve decided to roll out the MEDS Act.

It will surprise no one that I am strongly against the use of recreational marijuana. I worry, however, that in our zeal to enforce the law, we too often blind ourselves to the medicinal benefits of natural substances like cannabis. While I certainly do not support the use of marijuana for recreational purposes, the evidence shows that cannabis possesses medicinal properties that can truly change people’s lives for the better. And I believe, Mr. President, that we would be remiss if we threw out the baby with the bathwater.

We lack the science to support use of medical marijuana products like CBD oils not because researchers are unwilling to do the work, but because of bureaucratic red tape and over-regulation. Under current law, those who want to complete research on the benefits of medical marijuana must engage in a complex application process and interact with several federal agencies. These regulatory acrobatics can take researchers over a year, if not more, to complete. And the longer researchers have to wait, the longer patients have to suffer.

Certainly, as Senator Hatch points out, allowing easier access to research the medical and scientific benefits of marijuana could potentially help many patients suffering from epileptic seizures, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and many other life altering illnesses. Additionally, Korosec also mentions in her article that this legislation comes in the midst of a nationwide opioid epidemic. Of the 52,000 recorded drug overdoses in the United States in 2015, nearly two-thirds were opioid related deaths. Moreover, in January 2017, the Veterans Health Administration reported that approximately 68,000 veterans suffered from opioid addiction. Hopefully, opening the doors to scientific and medical research of marijuana as an alternative to opioids could reduce these numbers in the future.

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