The House of Representatives recently rejected a bipartisan proposal for the federal study of cannabis. A positive outcome would have reclassified cannabis to make it eligible for federally sponsored research regarding its medical value.
The squashed proposal was an amendment to a bill slated for upcoming debate in the House. It was designed to open a path for the Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Institutes of Health to jointly permit research concerning the safety and effects of cannabis-based treatment. Affected diseases and conditions under consideration include glaucoma, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder and epilepsy, among others.
Although prominent Republican lawmakers have expressed support for state leadership regarding the legal use of marijuana, few Republican legislators back any move toward national legalization in any form. Some of the Republican proponents of the amendment backed it because they believe more research will support the view that marijuana should not be legalized. Other conservative lawmakers may be looking for a credible way to follow the public trend of approval of legalization.
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Of those, currently four states and D.C. have legalized cannabis for recreational use. Despite shifting public opinion, House Republicans continue to deny permission for the national medical community to consider marijuana in treatment.
Earlier this year, the House rejected a proposal approved by a Senate committee that would have allowed physicians and patients at Veteran Affairs facilities to weigh the benefits of medical cannabis use.
Maryland Rep. Andy Harris, a physician and staunch opponent of legalization, co-sponsored the proposal. Before the vote, Harris said,
“We need science to clearly determine whether marijuana has medicinal benefits and, if so, what is the best way to gain those benefits.”
Harris’ sponsorship of the proposal reflects his unchanged opinion that marijuana should not be made legal and that research is likely to prove that cannabis is unsafe. Republican Rep. H. Morgan Griffith of Virginia supports federal research for just the opposite reason. Griffith said,
“Andy Harris doesn’t think the research will show anything positive, but I do, and both of us feel willing to take the risk, do the research, and let us use evidence to make decisions.”
Even as efforts stall in Washington, D.C., states are expanding options for medical marijuana patients. For example, Minnesota is now permitting the sale of medical cannabis in pill form and as an infused oil. Opponents in the House stick to their claim that there is no evidence to support benefits to the federal legalization of cannabis.
After the vote, Griffith said,
“This amendment would have answered the question one way or the other. I think it would have shown it is a valuable medical substance, but now we don’t have the evidence.”