The U.S. House Passes the Medical Marijuana Research Bill

The U.S. House Passes the Medical Marijuana Research Bill

Published on 5/31/22

The federal illegality of marijuana means that it is considered a schedule 1 narcotic, functionally no different than cocaine. Yet many drugs, including marijuana, have medicinal purposes that require further research for practical use. The federal status of marijuana has long been a sticking point for medical marijuana research, limiting our understanding of how this plant can bring relief to patients. With the passage of the Medical Marijuana Research Bill by the United States House of Representatives, this research may become possible for the first time in American history. While there is quite a bit more work to be done, it may be a watershed moment in the history of American cannabis. What does this bill entail, and what does it mean for someone who relies on medicinal cannabis?

Medical Grade


The potential of cannabis to help with medical issues has long been recognized. At first, medicinal cannabis was little more than something to aid in eating, only useful for patients suffering from conditions like cancer. However, as more and more persons turned to cannabis as a first- or last-chance option, it became clear that it was valuable for many ailments. Issues ranging from anxiety to insomnia can be alleviated with medicinal cannabis, paving the way for broad legalization and prescription. Medicinal cannabis has been decriminalized or legalized in many states, even if recreational marijuana remains outlawed. Yet the investigation into medicinal research is hampered by the federal status of cannabis, which restricts not only access to cannabis but also funding and the ability to give marijuana to patients.

House Rules

Luckily, the question of cannabis legality has been growing into an issue that many Americans are for. Those who grew up with illegal cannabis understand that it has created a huge prison issue. In contrast, those growing up with legal cannabis understand that it has not caused society to collapse. Political opinion has changed as legalization passes across the nation, and today, only a third of Americans do not support full legalization.

This has created upward pressure on politicians to get new legislation done. After all, cannabis reform hits many of the notes that politicians dream of: pleasing constituents, helping the less fortunate, reducing government spending, and creating new jobs. In 2018, the Farm Bill included provisions for growing hemp, the key component of most medicinal strains of cannabis, and turning it into CBD products. Yet the April bill on medicinal cannabis research goes much farther.

Bill of Sale

The House bill, called HR 5657, has several provisions. First and foremost, it would permit the research of qualified professionals (such as industry, hospital, and university scientists) on medicinal cannabis. It creates a process for this type of research, meaning that there would be less red tape and paperwork needed to start it and a guarantee that it would not be interrupted. The bill expands the number of federally licensed cannabis growers and improves the timeline for approvals to distribute licenses with fewer delays. Finally, the bill requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create a five-year report on the research, indicating progress in the study and the areas where medical benefits are most significant.

The bill passed by an overwhelming margin, 343-75. While there was broad bipartisan support for the bill, every member of Congress who voted against it was a member of the Republican party, indicating the residual roadblocks toward drug reform in a political group that still prides itself on being tough on crime.

Next Steps


If you took government class so long ago that you do not remember what happens next, the House bill will soon be voted on by the Senate (relatively speaking - few things happen "soon" in politics). The vote will be challenging for several reasons. First and foremost, the Senate has already passed a bill streamlining research on medicinal cannabis, meaning that the two chambers of Congress will need to further negotiate their priorities and goals. However, the Senate bill passed with unanimous support, meaning that nobody wanted to vote against this particular reform.

However, perception is everything in politics, especially in an election year. Many Senate politicians interested in either re-election or an attempt at a run for the White House may look to bolster their credentials by voting down any possible bill brought over from the House. Not only might they want to declare that they are against drugs, but in a highly polarized Washington, they may want to demonstrate that they will only support legislation that is strictly beneficial to their party and supporters.

Even if the bill passes the Senate, it must next be signed into law by the president. Thus far, President Biden's drug policies have been fairly disappointing. He extended a political initiative meant to clamp down harder on the distribution of drugs, particularly fentanyl, that will only result in more Americans behind bars. While his "harm reduction" policy is better than punishing drug users, it nevertheless has little oomph. Like members of Congress, Biden has re-election on his mind and may decide it too great of a risk to sign a bill that opponents could easily paint as paying tax money for drugs.

New Possibilities

Despite the risks of it falling through the cracks of the political system, the House bill is a clear step forward. Research on all drugs, including medicinal cannabis, only has the potential to help more people with health conditions. Studies are hamstrung by many factors, including the difficulty of getting money, marijuana, and test subjects; this bill would improve access to all three. A compromise in Washington could mean more options for suffering Americans and a deeper understanding of just how much cannabis has to offer.

Do you participate in the politics of cannabis? How have you helped reform move forward? Let us know in the comments below!

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