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Senate To Remove Marijuana Research Barriers

The U.S Senate has been known for its opposition to marijuana research with the strong belief that cannabis has no medicinal value.  Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have been longtime advocates for the war on drugs, firmly standing by their decision to prohibit scientists from furthering their research on the most controversial drug.  However, last Wednesday, the two Senators submitted letters to the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), requesting that the two departments work together to "determine ways to remove any unnecessary barriers that stand in the way of research into the potential medical benefits of marijuana."

The letters have since been accepted by medical cannabis advocates.  Last October, the Senators wrote letters saying they "do not support the use of smoked marijuana as medicine," but "are concerned that existing regulations may have the unintended consequence of inhibiting additional research on potential medical uses for marijuana; specifically, cannabidiol," also known as CBD.  The change in they Senators way of thinking is a sign that the constant conversation about marijuana and its medicinal value is causing people to reconsider their antiquated ways of thinking.  

The director of government affairs for Americans for Safe Access, Mike Liszewski, told that the letters are "yet another sign that the federal government is backing away from the position that marijuana has no medicinal value. The fact that two of the biggest opponents to marijuana reform are now becoming actively supportive of research shows that the days of medical marijuana being a third rail issue are effectively over."  

While both Grassley and Feinstein both still still have their concerns, like the federal protocols that require scientists to resubmit their applications to lengthy reviews when they make even minor changes to research plans and the necessity of a Public Health Service review that all marijuana studies must go through in addition to getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration, it still is a step in the right direction.  HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell sent a response stating that her department is "working to alleviate any unnecessary burdens that inhibit research and development in this area" and is "assessing ways to streamline the review of and provision of marijuana to investigators."  On the other hand, assistant attorney general Peter J. Kadzik claimed that current regulations and procedures provide adequate support for marijuana research.

Grassley and Feinstein sent follow up letters confronting the "conflicting responses" they received from the departments.  The Senators responded, asking HHS and Justice to conduct a review into whether CBD should be rescheduled under the Controlled Substances Act as well as requested better coordination to remove research barriers.