The U.S. Senate approved a bill on Tuesday that would allow for the expansion of scientific research into cannabis and marijuana derivatives including CBD. The bill, known as the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act (S. 2032), was advanced by unanimous consent and will now head to the House of Representatives for consideration. The House passed a similar measure last week, although provisions in that bill that would allow researchers to use cannabis products from state-licensed dispensaries are not included in the Senate proposal.
The Senate bill’s lead sponsors, Democrats Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Sen. Brian Hatch of Hawaii and Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, applauded the action in a joint press release on Wednesday. The bill passed on Tuesday combines a bill previously introduced by Senators Feinstein and Grassley (the Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act) with a bill previously introduced by Senator Schatz (the Marijuana Effective Drug Studies Act.)
“Existing regulations make medical marijuana research difficult and have prevented us from understanding exactly how medical marijuana can be used safely and effectively to treat various conditions,” said Feinstein. “Our bill streamlines the research process and paves the way for marijuana-derived medications that are FDA-approved to treat serious medical conditions, like intractable epilepsy, in a way that will keep consumers safe.”
Bill Streamlines Cannabis Research
S. 2032 would expedite the approval process for researchers planning to study cannabis or its derivatives. The measure also includes provisions that would streamline the development of FDA-approved drugs made with marijuana or CBD by allowing accredited medical and osteopathic schools, practitioners, research institutions, and manufacturers with a Schedule I registration to produce marijuana for their research.
“Our bill will remove excessive barriers that make it difficult for researchers to study the effectiveness and safety of marijuana, and hopefully, give patients more treatment options,” said Schatz. “The medical community agrees that we need more research to learn about marijuana’s potential health benefits, but our federal laws today are standing in the way.”
Other provisions of the bill would permit doctors to discuss the potential benefits and risks of marijuana treatments including CBD with their patients and the parents of minors in their care. The measure would also require the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health to submit a report on the potential benefits and harms of marijuana use within one year of the bill’s effective date.
Measure Receives Bipartisan Support
In addition to Feinstein, Grassley, and Schatz, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Jon Tester (D -Mont.), and Lisa Murkowski (R- Alaska).
“I’ve been a strong supporter and lead Republican of this legislation since it was first introduced in 2016,” said Grassley. “This bipartisan bill is critical to better understanding the marijuana plant and its potential benefits and side effects. It will empower the FDA to analyze CBD and medical marijuana products in a safe and responsible way so that the American public can decide whether to utilize them in the future based on sound scientific data. Researching marijuana is widely supported by my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and it’s a smart step forward in addressing this current schedule I drug.”