The U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would allow the Drug Enforcement Administration to move forward with its plan for additional research cannabis. The powerful House panel, which oversees federal drug enforcement efforts, would require Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice to keep their hands off the DEA’s review of applications from cannabis producers.
The DEA has received 26 applications from potential cannabis suppliers. Licensed manufacturers will be legally allowed to grow cannabis in the country for research purposes.
The allowed amount of cannabis for research is currently 1,000 pounds. But the agency wants this amount to go up to over 5,400 pounds or 2.45 million grams in 2019.
Currently, one cannabis grower — University of Mississippi pharmacologist Mahmoud ElSohly — has been licensed by the federal government to grow research-grade cannabis plants. However, in order to meet the need for additional cannabis, more growers are also needed.
Other producers have already expressed interest and have submitted applications for license to grow the plants. The only problem was that Sessions has obstructed the application process.
This is why Rep. Matt Gaetz introduced the Medical Cannabis Research Act in April, which would require the justice department to federally license at least a couple more manufacturers to provide research-quality cannabis. The legislation, Gaetz said, creates a safe harbor for medical institutions and universities to engage in research.
According to Gaetz, the federal government should not hinder collaboration that could potentially help people have a better quality of life.
Before the panel’s vote, there was a dispute with regard to the bill’s provision that bars any person with a conviction for a drug-related misdemeanor or felony from working with the licensed growers. The bill requires the manufacturers to complete a criminal background check for all of the personnel who will be involved in the operations.
Several Democrats on the panel argued that this restriction contradicts the Second Chance Act.
The bill gives Sessions one full year to review the applications. After this period, he may delay giving a decision and request the applicants to provide supplementary information.
The bill is expected to proceed to the House floor and go through an amendment process. After that, it needs to be approved by the Senate, and signed into law by President Donald Trump.