On January 15th, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health held a hearing titled “Cannabis Policies for the New Decade.” The purpose of the hearing was to examine federal policies on marijuana and discuss six bills involving laws on marijuana.
The six bills propose various policy changes from rescheduling or de-scheduling marijuana, to providing a safe harbor for patients and veterans who use medical marijuana and streamlining cannabis research processes. Policies on cannabidiol, commonly known as “CBD,” were also discussed.
In his testimony, Matthew Strait (Senior Policy Advisor, Drug Enforcement Administration) discussed his agency’s involvement in the research of marijuana. He said the DEA has already drafted legislation to expand the number of licenses granted to grow research-grade marijuana. He also said his agency “shares the view that medical decisions should be based on science and adherence to the established drug approval process which ensures that only safe and effective drugs are approved to be available in the United States.”
Dr. Douglas Throckmorton (Deputy Director, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration) focused on questions surrounding CBD products that have become popular across the country. He said the “FDA is considering questions not only about the intrinsic safety of CBD, but also about potentially unsafe manufacturing processes for products containing CBD. He added that the agency “is considering the possibility of new legal pathways for CBD products, we know that it is important to maintain adequate incentives for drug research and development.”
Dr. Nora Volkow (Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health) told the committee about the adverse health effects of marijuana according to research done over the years. She said, “Cannabis can interfere with the proper development and regulation of brain circuitry” in fetuses and that “THC exposure during adolescence increases subsequent sensitivity to the rewarding effects of other drugs.”
The common opinion of the three witnesses was that they all believe more federally funded research on marijuana is needed. However, marijuana research bills are not likely to move anytime soon, even with some bipartisan support for increased research. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said that he will not bring marijuana legislation to the floor this year.