President Joe Biden signed a cannabis bill into law on Friday, an historic, albeit incremental, step toward cannabis law reform.
The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act, authored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, who also founded and co-chairs the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, is an effort to clear the often burdensome path for cannabis research in the United States.
“Today marks a monumental step in remedying our federal cannabis laws,” Blumenauer said in a statement upon Biden’s signature. “Research is foundational for the path forward on cannabis policy. Research is essential to better understand the therapeutic benefits of cannabis that have the potential to help millions of Americans struggling with chronic pain, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, anxiety disorders and more.”
The Senate passed the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act in mid-November, clearing its path to become law. The research bill, while narrow in scope, as Cannabis Wire reported, will start to cut through some of the cumbersome bureaucracy that researchers have had to overcome since cannabis was placed in Schedule I, the most restrictive category, with the passage of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act.
The need for more cannabis research has become a common talking point during Congressional hearings on cannabis, as Cannabis Wire has reported. Cannabis research is also frequently requested during state-level hearings on reform bills. Meanwhile, since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp, which is low-THC cannabis, the Food and Drug Administration has been charged with crafting the rules for CBD products, which are popular but not yet federally-regulated. What does the FDA keep asking for? More data and more scientific research.
Biden’s signature comes during a lame-duck session in which, cannabis industry stakeholders hope, more comprehensive cannabis legislation can also meet the bar for passage. The bill in the spotlight: the Secure and Fair Enforcement Act, or the SAFE Banking Act, with added justice-focused provisions. The language is expected any day now.
When the Senate passed the research bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer alluded to this possibility.
“I hope after passing this bill, the Senate can make progress on other cannabis legislation, too. I’m still holding productive talks with Democratic and Republican colleagues in the House and the Senate on moving additional bipartisan cannabis legislation in the lame-duck, and we’re going to try very, very hard to get it done. It’s not easy, but we’re making good progress,” Schumer said.
In reaction to Biden’s signature of the cannabis research bill, Blumenauer, too, looked to the future of cannabis reform – aiming for the movement in the next few weeks.
“We celebrate the enactment of this critical and long-overdue legislation, and we know there is much more to do to remedy the ongoing harms of the failed war on drugs. Our caucus will continue working to reimagine the federal government’s approach to cannabis and enact further reforms,” he said. “In the coming weeks, we are committed to passing subsequent bipartisan, common-sense proposals like the SAFE Banking package, the Veterans Equal Access Act, the PREPARE Act, and the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act.”