The Health subcommittee, along with other subcommittees of the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce, conducted a 3 ½ hour-long hearing of factors hampering cannabis research, possession, and consumption.
Termed the “Cannabis policies for the new decade,” the hearing saw legislators hearing testimonies from officials of the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the National Institute of Health (NIH).
The Legislators conceded that federal laws were out of step with the laws of many states when it came to legalizing marijuana. Eleven states have legalized adult-use of marijuana and 22 have legalized the sale of medical marijuana. Still, cannabis is banned according to federal law. This strange situation holds back financial institutions from extending their services to cannabis centers in the states.
Cannabis is federally classified as a Schedule-1 substance, the most restricted category with no medical use. Federal law stipulates that for any research on cannabis to be accepted, the cannabis will have to be sourced only from the University of Mississippi. Scientists have criticized the research-grade cannabis supplied by the University as “sub-par.” They also say that just one type of sample cannot do justice to varieties of cannabis products available in the states.
Addressing the issue, senior policy advisor in the DEA’s Diversion Control Division Matthew Strait said that the agency was working on removing curbs on cannabis research and increasing the number of licensed marijuana cultivators.
The deputy director for regulatory programs at the FDA’s Drug Evaluation of Research, Dr. Douglas Throckmorton, said in his testimony that his agency was reviewing the research into the cannabis compound cannabidiol (CBD). It would be studying CBD’s safety for consumption, the development of new drugs from CBD, and the efficacy of non-drug pathways of products made from federally legal hemp.
Director of NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkov cautioned the legislators on getting carried away and going as far as descheduling cannabis. She said that descheduling would help in improving research into the medical benefits of marijuana, but on the flip side, it can lead to reduced risk-perception among people. This can have adverse health effects.