Donna Shalala, Matt Gaetz Want to Expand Medical Marijuana Research

Two members of the Florida delegation teamed up this week to bring out a bill to expand research on the medical impact of marijuana.

U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., who served as U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., brought out the “Expanding Cannabis Research and Information Act” on Thursday. According to Shalala’s office, 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.” U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., joined Gaetz as a cosponsor.

“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.”

“I am proud to work with Congresswoman Shalala on the Expanding Cannabis Research and Information Act. 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 Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is behind the proposal.

“ 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 said. “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.”

Shalala’s office insisted the bill was needed.

“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. 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,” Shalala’s office noted.

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce and the Judiciary Committee on Thursday. So far, there is no counterpart over in the U.S. Senate.


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