Dingell-led Medical Marijuana Research Act clears U.S. House

The bipartisan legislation would allow for researchers to more fully explore the medicinal potential of cannabis

click to enlarge Congresswoman Debbie Dingell addresses the Women's March in Ann Arbor on January 21, 2017. - SUSAN MONTGOMERY, SHUTTERSTOCK
Susan Montgomery, Shutterstock
Congresswoman Debbie Dingell addresses the Women's March in Ann Arbor on January 21, 2017.

On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Medical Marijuana Research Act, legislation co-led by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan, along with seven other bipartisan U.S. Representatives.

The legislation would help facilitate the research of cannabis for medical research by establishing a separate registration process, directing the Food and Drug Administration to issue guidelines on the production of cannabis from authorized researchers and manufacturers, and making cannabis from state-authorized programs available for research, among other things.

At present, the federal government only allows researchers to use marijuana provided by the University of Mississippi, but researchers say this cannabis more resembles hemp than the medical or recreational marijuana produced by state-licensed providers, preventing them from researching the plant's full potential.

"Outdated laws written during the War on Drugs have put up roadblocks that prevent urgent research needed to better understand the health impact of marijuana," Dingell said in a statement. "With the Medical Marijuana Research Act, we are taking action to remove those barriers and empower the researchers who will educate us all about the potential benefits and risks of marijuana use. It is high time we modernized our nation’s drug laws, and this legislation is a step in the right direction."

In 2019, Dingell became the first federally elected official to speak at Ann Arbor's Hash Bash, an annual rally for cannabis supporters.

Though Dingell said she has never used the drug, she said she recommended it for medicinal use to her late husband, the former U.S. Rep. John Dingell, who died in 2018 at age 92. Cannabis has been approved for medicinal use in Michigan since 2008.

"I wanted him to try it because he was in so much pain, and he was so afraid of it," she told the crowd. "Right now because marijuana is still scheduled as a class one drug, we're not doing the research we need."

The Medical Marijuana Research Act's other leaders include U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), Andy Harris (R-Maryland), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-Washington, D.C.), Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee), Morgan Griffith (R-Virginia), Barbara Lee (D-California), and Ed Case (D-Hawaii).

Last week, Dingell also voted in support of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level and expunge the records of those with cannabis criminal convictions, among other things. It was only the second time in 50 years that Congress took up cannabis legislation. It now heads to the Senate, where Democrats have a narrow majority and have expressed interest in making cannabis legalization a priority.

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About The Author

Lee DeVito

Leyland "Lee" DeVito grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, where he read Metro Times religiously due to teenaged-induced boredom. He became a contributing writer for Metro Times in 2009, and Editor in Chief in 2016. In addition to writing, he also supplies occasional illustrations. His writing has been published...
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