Bill to Reclassify Marijuana Dies Quietly in the House
July 13th, 2015
Policy, Top News
A rare bipartisan bill designed to reclassify marijuana so that national laboratories could conduct credible research on its safety and efficacy as a medical treatment died a quiet death in the U.S. House of Representatives last week. While Republicans have supported state-level marijuana programs to exist, they have not been quite as supportive of efforts designed to advance national policy on the legalization of medical marijuana.
The amendment to a bill scheduled for debate this week would have encouraged the National Institutes of Health and the Drug Enforcement Administration to work together to permit studies of the benefits and risk of marijuana to treat cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other conditions. A growing body of research suggests that the drug could be beneficial in treating many of these conditions.
In particular, the amendment would have created a new designation for the drug rather than classifying it as a Schedule I Controlled Substance – the most dangerous designation that places marijuana alongside drugs like heroin and LSD. The designation even labels marijuana as more dangerous than cocaine with no possible medical value. Even with the limited evidence collected thus far, the classification appears to be inaccurate.
The move doesn’t come as a surprise to many industry watchdogs. Earlier this year, House Republicans shot down a Senate measures to let doctors discuss marijuana with patients at the Veterans Affairs clinics. When Washington D.C. legalized marijuana, a prominent House committee chairman even threatened the city’s mayor with jail time if the law were implemented – a sign of just how strong the opposition has become.
The irony is that the amendment that died last week would have been a potential game-changer by helping prove – one way or the other – whether marijuana is useful in treating these conditions. Without evidence in place, lawmakers must simply rely on private sector research like that being done by GW Pharmaceuticals plc [stockquote symbol=GWPH] and others, or rampant speculation based on the drug’s troubled image from the past.
Why the measure failed remains unclear.
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