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Oregon Democrat sponsors legislation that goes to Biden; 39 states now allow medical use, but feds do not.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer praised Senate passage of his legislation to foster further research into medical uses for marijuana and cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive chemical that may have therapeutic uses.

The voice vote Wednesday, Nov. 16, by the Senate moved the bill (HR 8454) to President Joe Biden, who has shifted his stance in recent weeks. Blumenauer, a Democrat from Portland, is the bill's chief sponsor. The bill passed the House on a 325-95 vote on July 26.

The Senate vote took place the week after voters in Maryland and Missouri added to the 19 states, including Oregon, where cannabis for adult use is legal. Similar measures failed in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota. Medical marijuana is legal in 39 states, including Oregon.

But marijuana has been classified as a Schedule 1 drug, with no accepted medical use, under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act.

Though the legislation does not change the status of marijuana under federal law, it streamlines the application process for research, encourages the Food and Drug Administration to develop marijuana-derived medicine and requires the Department of Health and Human Services to report on the potential benefits and harms of marijuana use to Congress.

Blumenauer's statement:

"After working on the issue of cannabis reform for decades, finally the dam is starting to break. The passage of my Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act in the House and Senate represents a historic breakthrough in addressing the federal government's failed and misguided prohibition of cannabis.

"As we have seen in state after state, the public is tired of waiting for the federal government to catch up. Nearly half of our nation's population now live in states where adult-use of cannabis is legal. For far too long, Congress has stood in the way of science and progress, creating barriers for researchers attempting to study cannabis and its benefits. At a time when more than 155 million Americans reside where adult-use of cannabis is legal at the state or local level and there are four million registered medical marijuana users with many more likely to self-medicate, it is essential that we are able to fully study the impacts of cannabis use.

"The passage of this legislation coming just weeks after the change in President Biden's posture toward cannabis is extraordinarily significant. We must capitalize on this momentum to move subsequent common-sense House-passed bills like the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1996), which finally allows state-legal dispensaries to access banking services and reduce their risk of violent robberies."

As president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana — and a three-time adviser in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy — Kevin Sabet has been an outspoken critic of the SAFE Banking Act, which passed the House on July 14 but remains in a Senate committee, and other bills that would legalize cannabis or change its status.

The Senate Finance Committee has possession of HR 3617, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which the House passed in April, and S 4591, a Senate version known as the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act.

But Sabet also praised congressional passage of the research legislation in a statement:

"The historic passing of the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act demonstrates that we can lower barriers to marijuana research without de-scheduling and legalizing marijuana. Unlike bills like the SAFE Banking Act, MORE Act, and the Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act, this legislation represents needed and meaningful reform to marijuana research.

"SAM has always encouraged research on marijuana and has said for years that if marijuana is being presented as medicine, it should be treated as such and researched as such. We encourage component treatments that are FDA-approved, prescribed by a physician, and dispensed by a pharmacy. Bills like this one are key for advancing a solid, science-based research agenda.

"This bill has been a long time coming and is the result of hard work put forth by both policy makers and the scientific community. I applaud bill sponsors Congressmen Andy Harris and Earl Blumenauer, as well as Senators Brian Schatz, Dianne Feinstein, and Chuck Grassley for leading this charge on sensible marijuana research. I urge President Biden to sign this legislation when it arrives on his desk."

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