Warren pushes feds to ease restrictions on marijuana research

Warren pushes feds to ease restrictions on marijuana research
© Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenKamala Harris will no longer accept corporate PAC money Pompeo faces pivotal vote Dem senators demand Trump explain ties to Koch brothers MORE (D-Mass.) wants to make it easier for government-paid researchers to study marijuana – and not just its negative side effects.

Eight Democratic senators, led by Warren, are urging federal health and drug officials to address the “data shortfall” on potential health benefits of medical marijuana by making it easier for researchers to study the drug.

Medical use of marijuana is now legal in 23 states, though it is difficult to study because it remains one of the country’s most tightly controlled substances.

ADVERTISEMENT
“It is important that we make a concerted effort to understand how this drug works and how it can best serve patients through appropriate methods of use and doses, like any other prescribed medicine,” they wrote in a letter to government officials.

The letter was sent to the heads of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Office of National Drug Control Policy – all of which have control over marijuana-related rules.

While the government does not prohibit research on marijuana, it is classified as a high-risk drug because of its potential for abuse and addiction.

Some medical benefits of “isolated components of the marijuana plant” have been recognized by the Food and Drug Administration. Still, marijuana is considered a “schedule 1 drug” under federal rules – a classification that also includes heroin and ecstasy.

Researchers must go through multiple layers of approval to use the drug. Under current regulations, medical marijuana can only be grown at the University of Mississippi, which partners with the only organization permitted by the government to do so, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Pointing to the growing number of users nationwide, the senators said the government agencies “have both an opportunity and a responsibility” to ensure adequate research.

The senators asked about the timeline for reconsidering marijuana's status as a schedule 1 drug, and about efforts to help other groups besides NIDA acquire permits to grow the drug for research purposes.

The letter comes less than a week after several House lawmakers tried to attach a medical marijuana research amendment to a 350-page drug development bill, 21st Century Cures. The amendment was cosponsored by one of the House’s biggest marijuana foes, Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) and Rep. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerRussia, China eclipse US in hypersonic missiles, prompting fears Water has experienced a decade of bipartisan success Way to go, Ted Poe MORE (D-Ore.), one of its biggest proponents of legalization.

The amendment was not added to the final legislation, which cleared the House on Friday.

Warren first said she supports medical marijuana in fall 2012, shortly after her father died of cancer.

“If there’s something a physician can prescribe that can help someone who’s suffering, I’m in favor of that,” she told Boston’s WTKK-FM. “It should be like any other prescription drug. That there’s careful control over it.”

The letter was also signed by Sens. Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiDems ponder gender politics of 2020 nominee Robert Mueller's forgotten surveillance crime spree Clinton: White House slow-walking Russia sanctions MORE (D-Md.), Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerThe ‘bang for the buck’ theory fueling Trump’s infrastructure plan Kamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response MORE (D-Calif.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTrump struggles to get new IRS team in place CIA declassifies memo on nominee's handling of interrogation tapes Dem senators demand Trump explain ties to Koch brothers MORE (D-Ore.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Energy: Senate confirms Bridenstine as NASA chief | Watchdog probes Pruitt’s use of security detail | Emails shine light on EPA science policy changes 32 male senators back Senate women's calls to change harassment rules Duckworth brings her baby to Senate vote, drawing a crowd MORE (D-Ore.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandGillibrand's jobs plan another federal program we don't need Kamala Harris will no longer accept corporate PAC money Schumer to introduce bill to decriminalize marijuana MORE (D-N.Y.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) – all of whom have introduced or cosponsored previous marijuana legislation.