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Federal Government Takes a Step Forward in Medical Marijuana Research

November 19, 2019 • • Marijuana LawsMedical Marijuana
Federal Government Takes a Step Forward in Medical Marijuana Research

Federal Government Takes a Step Forward in Medical Marijuana Research

A recently introduced congressional bill could open up more research into the benefits of medical marijuana. A bipartisan bill to ease restrictions on medical marijuana research has been re-introduced in Congress. In July, the Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2019 was put forth by Representatives Andy Harris (R-MD) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to eliminate what they see as unnecessary burdens that prevent needed investigation into the medicinal properties of cannabis.

Federal Support for Cannabis Research

The above Congressman introduced the same bill in 2016. Currently, 33 states, including Ohio, have approved marijuana for medical purposes. Their proposal would:
  • Reduce approval times and streamline the registration process for medical marijuana research projects.
  • Allow researchers to obtain marijuana from more production sources, including private manufacturers. Currently, cannabis for research can only come from the University of Mississippi, which has a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  • Require a report to the Department of Health and Human Services five years after the bill is enacted to detail the progress of medical marijuana research.
The congressional bill follows a bipartisan effort in the Senate to expand medical marijuana and CBD research. Similarly to the bill in the House, the Senate proposal aims to make it easier for researchers to receive approval for applications and would increase the development of cannabidiol (CBD) and marijuana products used for research.  If the bills are passed, it would mark a step forward by the federal government in facilitating research into the benefits of medical marijuana. The bills could also free up more federal funding for marijuana research. Last year, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health announced four funding opportunities for cannabis-related research. While more research is welcome and needed, medical marijuana patients must be aware of current state and federal laws regulating marijuana use. Although federal law supersedes state laws, federal law doesn’t block patients in states where medical marijuana is regulated from receiving cannabis to treat approved conditions.

Federal Law vs. State Law

The federal government considers marijuana a Schedule I controlled substance that has a high potential for abuse and no medicinal value. Since federal law overrides state law, this classification means federal law must be followed in specific circumstances in states that allow medical marijuana. For example, federal law prohibits granting gun permits to individuals who use marijuana, even for medical purposes. Therefore, medical marijuana patients would be denied a gun permit if they apply while taking medical marijuana. While the exact legal status is unclear at this time, individuals who already own a legal gun permit prior to being recommended for medical marijuana will likely be able to keep their firearms.  In addition, because of the federal law, doctors in Ohio and other states where medical marijuana has been approved cannot write a prescription for its use. Rather, they can only provide a recommendation for medical marijuana that allows patients to obtain a medical marijuana card and purchase the product under strict guidelines. In general, though, the federal government doesn’t interfere with state medical marijuana regulations. Under legislation passed in 2014, the Department of Justice cannot use funds to prevent states from enacting medical marijuana laws.  Yet medical marijuana patients must obey state laws under some circumstances. Driving under the influence of marijuana could be considered a criminal offense, so anyone using medical marijuana should not get behind the wheel after taking the medication. In addition, employers have the right to fire employees found to use marijuana, even if it’s for medical reasons. Otherwise, as long as patients adhere to federal and state laws, they’ll be able to legally use medical marijuana in Ohio.

Medical Marijuana and You

In Ohio, you have the right to obtain a recommendation for medical marijuana for treatment of 21 qualifying conditions. The professional staff at Lakewood Medical Clinic will review your condition and help you understand the process of obtaining medical marijuana. We’ll also explain the relevant laws regulating cannabis use. Contact us today if you believe you or a loved one would benefit from medical marijuana.