The Senate Appropriations Committee stated something last week that advocates of marijuana legalization have been arguing for decades: Classifying the drug as a Schedule 1 narcotic hinders critical research into the components and potential benefits of cannabis and cannabis products. In a report attached to a funding bill for both the Labor and HHS departments, the committee argued: “At a time when we need as much information as possible about these drugs, we should be lowering regulatory and other barriers to conducting this research.”
Under Schedule 1, drugs are believed to have no medicinal value and an increased risk of abuse. As such, the classification carries heavy restrictions and regulations that are over and above the already stringent FDA requirements for researching other drugs. In its report, the committee calls for additional research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse into the barriers associated with Schedule 1 status.
Language criticizing the Schedule 1 research barriers is not new for the Senate committee, and when one examines it next to other statements and actions made by the panel, it becomes difficult to predict what changes if any will come at the federal level for marijuana. For instance, on one hand, the committee advocates protecting state medical marijuana laws and increasing access to veterans, but on the other hand, they have blocked attempts to ease restrictions on banking for cannabis businesses.
The committee also expressed concerns about what it called the “rapidly changing landscape regarding the recreational use of marijuana,” citing questions about the drug’s effect on health and development, addiction, and the dangers of driving under the influence.
In any event, they recommend the resumption of research on federally seized cannabis. The committee says that policy decisions regarding substance abuse, addiction, and public health require informed research and that such research has been lacking in recent years.
Ultimately, though concerns still loom large in the eyes of lawmakers, the committee’s recent comments will help to shore up efforts to get marijuana out of Schedule 1 classification and open up federal research opportunities.