cannabis researcher with plant and bottle of oil

Federal legislation introduced today by Reps. Dina Titus (D-NV) and Joe Neguse (D-CO) seeks to establish a new grant program within the National Institutes of Health to fund studies assessing cannabis’ medical benefits.

The legislation, the Higher Education Marijuana Research Act of 2023, would appropriate up to $150 million in federal funding for university-sponsored medical cannabis research. The legislation also permits academic institutions to purchase state-licensed cannabis products for the purpose of “biological, chemical, agricultural, or public health research.”

However, universities would not be permitted to use state-legal products in clinical trials.

In recent years, several states — including California, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, and Utah — have taken steps to establish cannabis research programs via their state universities.

“The legal, responsible use of cannabis has been a major economic driver in Nevada and across the country and deserves further research,” said Rep. Titus in a press release. “Most of that research will come from academia, where right now too many universities and researchers do not have robust protections for even possessing what they are researching. As a former professor, I’m introducing this commonsense legislation to support their work and help us all learn more about the effects and potential uses of cannabis.”

NORML’s Political Director Morgan Fox was also quoted in the release, stating: “We are grateful to Rep. Titus for introducing this legislation at a time when state cannabis laws are rapidly changing. Despite cannabis being one of the most heavily studied substances, there continue to be significant federal barriers to conducting additional research, particularly involving clinical trials and products that are available in regulated state-legal markets. This bill will facilitate trusted university partners to engage in the kinds of research that will best equip state and federal lawmakers and regulators to develop effective cannabis policies based on public health and safety, will allow consumers to make more informed choices, and will help train the next generation of cannabis researchers.”

In December, President Joe Biden has signed legislation into law, The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act, facilitating the federal approval of cannabis-specific clinical research and drug development. The law expedited the timeline with which the US Attorney General is provided to either approve or deny applications from scientists wishing to conduct clinical trials involving the use of cannabis by human subjects. 

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