Two members of Florida’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill on Thursday that would expand research into the medicinal use of marijuana. The measure, titled the Expanding Cannabis Research and Information Act, was filed by Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala and her Republican colleague Rep. Matt Gaetz has signed on as a co-sponsor.
If passed, the bill “would develop a national cannabis research agenda, direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to collect data on the health impacts of cannabis, establish a National Institutes of Health ‘Centers of Excellence’ research designation, and reclassify cannabis as a Schedule III controlled substance,” according to Shalala’s office.
“For years now, states across the country have been liberalizing their cannabis laws without making corresponding investments in developing a better scientific understanding of the short and long-term benefits and effects of cannabis on human health,” said Shalala. “By rescheduling cannabis and directing our national research infrastructure to study and collect data on how it impacts health outcomes, we are not only bringing federal cannabis policy into the 21st century, but we’re also guaranteeing that we do so safely.”
Bill Would Streamline Cannabis Research
“This bipartisan and bicameral legislation will improve, expedite, and streamline cannabis research: by rescheduling cannabis to Schedule III, this bill will lessen the conflict between states and the federal government, and by designating ‘Centers of Excellence in Cannabis Research,’ it will help unlock cures for America’s most vulnerable populations,” said Gaetz.
Florida state Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, who campaigned for office on a platform that included cannabis reform, applauded the action by the state’s federal lawmakers.
“On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana patients in Florida, I thank Congresswoman Shalala and Congressman Gaetz for their bipartisan leadership in Congress to further critical cannabis research,” said Fried. “Federal cannabis policy must be changed to better provide safe and compassionate treatment options for those in need, and the Expanding Cannabis Research and Information Act is a welcome step forward.”
A statement from Shalala’s office insisted that the bill is necessary.
“Currently, 11 states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult cannabis use, while 33 states have legalized medical cannabis use. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration continues to classify cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance with no medical benefit,” Shalala’s office noted. “The Expand Cannabis Research and Information Act would allow for a dramatic expansion in research around the health benefits and public safety impacts of cannabis use.”
The Expanding Cannabis Research and Information Act has also been co-sponsored by Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California. The bill has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.