Hatch Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Facilitate Research on the Medical Value of Marijuana


Today, U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai"i), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced the Marijuana Effective Drug Studies (MEDS) Act of 2016, a bipartisan bill that would make it easier for researchers to conduct clinical studies on the medical benefits of marijuana. Similar legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Andy Harris (R-Md.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), and Sam Farr (D-Calif.).

"While many patients have high hopes for the medical benefits of marijuana, further clinical research is needed to inform the decisions of policymakers regarding access to marijuana," said Senator Hatch. "In my home state of Utah, for instance, debates earlier this year on whether to expand access to marijuana for medical purposes highlighted the need for improved scientific research. This bill makes targeted changes to the Controlled Substances Act to address specific barriers that encumber medical researchers requesting approval of marijuana research protocols or seeking plant strains for clinical studies. This joint legislative effort between the House and Senate will eliminate redundancies in the regulatory process and enable needed research to better understand the potential medical uses of marijuana."

"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 of that inquiry," said Senator Schatz. "The MEDS Act 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."

"When it comes to our nation's efforts to cure diseases and improve the quality of life for people suffering from ailments, burdensome government regulations shouldn't be an impediment to legitimate and responsible medical research," said Senator Tillis. "The MEDS Act is a commonsense, bipartisan effort to remove unnecessary barriers that will give scientists the ability to study the biochemical processes, impact, dosing, risks and possible benefits of cannabidiol and other components of the marijuana plant."

"When it comes to Americans' health and well-being, our public policy should be based on scientific research -- not outdated assumptions," said Senator Coons. "Dozens of states across the country, including my home state of Delaware, have shown that medical marijuana laws can be implemented safely and effectively. With more and more states across the country considering similar policies -- an evolution backed by changing public opinion -- federal barriers to conducting medical research simply make no sense. When it comes to public health and safety, the federal government should be promoting policies that seek new information and understanding -- not standing in the way of science."

Marijuana has shown promise for treating a wide range of diseases and disorders. Yet there is limited data on the benefits and risks of marijuana as a possible medication, in large part because of federal barriers that inhibit scientific and clinical research. As a result, millions of Americans are utilizing marijuana for medical purposes without proper quality control standards or scientific guidance as to the drug's effectiveness, safety, dosing, or method of administration. The MEDS Act promotes scientific research and mitigates a significant public health risk by doing the following:

Removing redundancies in the process for obtaining Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) approval to conduct research and enabling researchers to amend and supplement research proposals without reapplying for approval. Under current law, researchers who want to conduct research on marijuana must engage with multiple agencies in a complex application process that can take a year or more to complete and must start from scratch if they make any changes to their research proposal.

Eliminating the frequently imposed DEA requirement that marijuana be kept in bolted safes--a requirement not possible in many research and clinical settings--and codifying current DEA regulations that allow marijuana to be stored in securely locked, substantially constructed cabinets.???

Directing DEA to license additional marijuana manufacturers for the purpose of scientific research and drug development and instructing the agency to establish manufacturing licenses for the commercial production of FDA-approved medical marijuana products.

The MEDS Act is supported by the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Society of Addiction Medicine, American Preventive Medical Association, American Pain Society, American Society of Anesthesiologists, American Academy of Pain Medicine, Child Neurology Foundation, Child Neurology Society, Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, and Smart Approaches to Marijuana.