A bill introduced last week seeks to end the University of Mississippi’s monopoly on cultivating cannabis for medical research in the USA.
Introduced by Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01), the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019, H.R. 601, seeks to boost the number of manufacturers registered under the Controlled Substances Act that are permitted to provide cannabis for legitimate research and other purposes.
“For too long, Congress has faced a dilemma with cannabis-related legislation: we cannot reform cannabis law without researching its safety, its efficacy, and its medical uses — but we cannot perform this critical research without first reforming cannabis law,” said Congressman Gaetz.
Currently, all federally-approved studies of medical cannabis must source their product from a single entity – a 12-acre farm at the University of Mississippi, run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Apparently, it’s been the only game in town for over 40 years. The University’s contract was renewed again in 2015.
The legislation being successful could also address another issue – quality of cannabis material. This was a thorny topic brought to the fore back in 2017 when a researcher reported receiving cannabis from NIDA’s facility that was moldy.
“It didn’t resemble cannabis. It didn’t smell like cannabis,” said Sue Sisley, a primary care physician in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Additionally, it appears supply is an issue, with not enough of even what has been termed a subpar product to go around. It’s not as though there’s no interest from producers – a number are standing in line.
The bill also offers protections for universities patients participating in federally-approved trials from federal interference as currently, cannabis research by universities poses a threat to their federal funding. Additionally, it would also see Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare providers permitted to supply information to clients regarding federally-approved cannabis clinical trials, and to complete forms for veterans wishing to participate in these trials.
Congressman Gaetz stressed that his bill doesn’t alter the legal status of cannabis at all, but simply unlocks the potential for much-needed further research.
It’s not the first time the legislation has been introduced. The House Judiciary Committee passed the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018 last year and sent it on to the full House in April 2018 – but it didn’t progress any further.