Top Republican senator introduces a medical marijuana research bill, says it’s ‘high time’ to address in pun-filled statement

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Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) speaks to reporters.
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Thomson Reuters

Senator Orrin Hatch introduced a bipartisan bill Wednesday to facilitate medical marijuana research in an especially pun-filled manner.

“It’s high time to address research into medical marijuana,” the Utah Republican said in a statement. “Our country has experimented with a variety of state solutions without properly delving into the weeds on the effectiveness, safety, dosing, administration, and quality of medical marijuana.”

Hatch’s statement continues (emphasis ours):

“All the while, the federal government strains to enforce regulations that sometimes do more harm than good. To be blunt, we need to remove the administrative barriers preventing legitimate research into medical marijuana, which is why I’ve decided to roll out the MEDS Act.”

Hatch added that he hopes the bipartisan initiative can be a “kumbaya moment” for both parties.

The bill, dubbed the Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act of 2017 or MEDS Act, is cosponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). It’s designed to improve the process for conducting research on medical marijuana and would direct the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to develop best practices for growing medical-grade cannabis.

Hatch took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to defend the bill, saying we “too often blind ourselves to the medicinal benefits of natural substances like cannabis,” in our “zeal” to enforce the law. He said he is still opposed to the recreational use of marijuana however.

medical marijuana

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A worker tends to cannabis plants at a medicinal plantation near the northern Israeli city of Safed June 11, 2012.
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Reuters/Baz Ratner

Marijuana, both medicinal and recreational, is considered an illegal Schedule 1 drug by the federal government. 29 states, however, have legalized some form of medical marijuana and allow doctors to prescribe the drug to patients.

While President Donald Trump indicated he was “100%” in support of medical marijuana on the campaign trail, his attorney general, Jeff Session, a noted marijuana opponent, has hinted at a crackdown on state-legal marijuana businesses, both medicinal and recreational.

Accessing quality samples of marijuana has been an ongoing challenge for scientists and doctors who want to study the plant because of its federal status.

The Drug Enforcement Administration – which dictates the legal status of controlled substances – announced last year that it planned to increase the supply of medical marijuana available to researchers, potentially paving the way for the Food and Drug Administration to approve a non-synthetic marijuana-based drug.