Just days after the Senate passed a cannabis research bill, the House of Representatives has passed its own. Both bills aim to streamline, and, by extension, expand, cannabis research, but the two bills have some noteworthy differences.
The bill that cleared the House on Monday, H.R.5657, or the Medical Marijuana Research Act, is more expansive than S.253, or the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act, which cleared the Senate in late March. It would, for example, allow researchers to study state-legal cannabis products.
Both bills passed in their respective chambers in late 2020, too, as Cannabis Wire reported at the time, but failed to progress. Interestingly, both bills advanced around the same time as the House first passed the MORE Act, which the House passed again on Friday.
Both bills have also brought together strange bedfellows. The House bill is sponsored by Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, one of the most outspoken cannabis proponents in Congress, and Maryland Rep. Andy Harris, a legalization opponent. Meanwhile, the Senate bill is sponsored by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who both oppose legalization, and Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, who supports it.
“We disagree about recreational marijuana – he supports it, I oppose it,” Harris said ahead of the vote on Monday, referring to Blumenauer. But, he added, “If we’re going to have medical marijuana legal … in over three dozen states, we really ought to do research on it, to see what it’s used for and what it can’t be used for.”
The House bill also aims to expand the number of federally-approved cannabis growers for research. There’s been some movement on this front since the last version of this bill was passed in 2020. As Cannabis Wire recently reported, the Drug Enforcement Administration has approved five entities since 2021, after first announcing in 2016 that it would do so.
Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill calls for a report on the effects of THC on “developing adolescent brains” and “cognitive abilities, such as those that are required to operate motor vehicles or other heavy equipment.” It also has a particular emphasis on cannabidiol, or CBD, which does not produce the high associated with THC.
Conversation around the House bill on Monday was brief, but the word “bipartisan” was repeated. After less than twenty minutes of discussion, the bill passed with the necessary two-thirds majority. The Senate bill passed unanimously, with no debate.
What remains to be seen now is whether the co-sponsors in each chamber will come together behind one bill with the aim of getting something to President Joe Biden’s desk.