Biden Signs Infrastructure Bill, Includes Cannabis Study Improvements

A new infrastructure bill passed by President Joe Biden will make a huge difference for cannabis research.
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President Joe Biden signed an infrastructure bill Monday, which includes the opportunity to allow researchers to use commercial cannabis in their studies, rather than government-grown cannabis.

President Biden signed a major bill on November 15 that will go down in history as a major infrastructure overhaul. HR-3648, also called The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, is a $1.2 trillion, bipartisan package aimed at supporting essential services. 

“The bill I’m about to sign into law is proof that despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can come together and deliver results,” Biden said. “We can do this. We can deliver real results for real people. We see in ways that really matter each and every day, to each person out there. And we’re taking a monumental step forward to build back better as a nation.” The bill passed in the Senate in August 2021, followed by the House earlier this month.

The bill will provide numerous federal investments that will go toward repairing roads, bridges and airport runways and terminals, and replacing school buses with low-emission versions, among other transit-related improvements. It also donates funds to increase access to reliable high-speed internet services, updating power grids and providing drought protection. 

More importantly, it also includes a provision to allow researchers to study cannabis that consumers use every day, rather than the less-than-potent cannabis grown by the government. Biden did not address this provision in his November 15 speech.

The bill mentions a “report on marijuana research” in Sec. 25026. It states that two years from now, Attorney General and Secretary of Health and Human Services must submit this public report that addresses the recommendations for following points: 

  1. Increasing access of cannabis “samples and strains” to researchers to study.
  2. Establishing a “national clearinghouse” that will assist researchers in distributing those cannabis products.
  3. Increase cannabis sample access for researchers who live in states that have not yet legalized medical or recreational cannabis.

Separately, cannabis received a brief mention in Sec. 24102 “Highway Safety Programs” as well. The section notes a requirement for states with legal cannabis to educate drivers about the dangers of driving under the influence of cannabis, with the hopes of reducing further injury and/or deaths.

It’s not an uncommon fact that government-grown cannabis, which is currently only legally allowed to be produced by the University of Mississippi, is weak in potency. According to a side-by-side comparison of commercial and government-grown cannabis by The Washington Post in 2017, commercial cannabis is thick, chunky and covered in trichomes. A sample of government-grown cannabis was thin, and seemingly made of stems instead of cannabis flower.

The inclusion of cannabis in this bill is brief, but nonetheless important to improving research materials. Many political responses to federal legalization and medical cannabis access have been that there isn’t enough research to prove the effectiveness of cannabis. The infrastructure bill’s required cannabis report, due to be released in 2023 if all goes according to plan, could help pave the way for researchers to improve upon their study materials for more effective results. 

There are a number of other cannabis-related bills currently being proposed. The most recent of which is the States Reform Act, which was introduced by South Carolina Senator Nancy Mace on November 15. 

Mace’s bill would remove cannabis from the list of Schedule I substances, and would give states the power to establish cannabis reform. “My home state of South Carolina permits CBD, Florida allows medical marijuana, California and others have full recreational use, for example. Every state is different. Cannabis reform at the federal level must take all of this into account. And it’s past time federal law codifies this reality,” Mace said in a statement.

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