Warren pushes feds to ease restrictions on marijuana research

Warren pushes feds to ease restrictions on marijuana research
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Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Top adviser on Sanders: 'He's always been underestimated' 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' 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.

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“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 BlumenauerAirports already have plenty of infrastructure funding Climate protesters glue themselves to Capitol doors, confront lawmakers Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment 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 MikulskiLobbying World Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Raskin embraces role as constitutional scholar MORE (D-Md.), Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Hispanic civil rights icon endorses Harris for president California AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list MORE (D-Calif.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenWyden blasts FEC Republicans for blocking probe into NRA over possible Russia donations Wyden calls for end to political ad targeting on Facebook, Google Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity MORE (D-Ore.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility Senate Dem seeks answers from DHS on reports of pregnant asylum seekers sent back to Mexico Schumer backs Pelosi as impeachment roils caucus MORE (D-Ore.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Sanders unveils plan to double union membership in first term The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden expands lead in new national poll 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.