BOULDER, Colo. — I still remember my jaw dropping when a marijuana researcher told me he couldn’t bring the same stuff I bought legally from a dispensary and put it under his microscope at the University of Colorado. Since marijuana is still federally illegal, scientists and researchers studying it have been dependent on the National Institutes for Drug Abuse to supply their product, but the Senate-passed infrastructure bill changes that.
Since 1968, the source of federally-approved testing cannabis has been the University of Mississippi’s Marijuana Project. But the program’s crop seems to be from the 1960s, because it’s nowhere close to on par with the cannabis being consumed legally across America.
This has caused massive problems for researchers and public health officials, and the complaints have been numerous. A group of scientists compared government-grown cannabis at the University of Mississippi with marijuana bought in dispensaries around the country and found it’s not even close to the stuff the majority of Americans are purchasing legally. Others have sued the government just to be allowed to study the same cannabis Americans now use in states where it’s legal.
That’s why the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by the Senate this week includes an interesting addition. Buried in its 1,200-plus pages is a resolution allowing marijuana researchers to use the product being sold on dispensary shelves instead of relying on crappy government-grown cannabis.
What a difference it would make for future studies. If you’re trying to understand why marijuana does what it does to people, it’s vital to examine the products actually being consumed by us.
While a small step forward, if the House of Representatives approves the Senate-passed infrastructure bill researchers would finally get the opportunity to study contemporary cannabis.
The resolution also asks states where marijuana is legal to look into ways to better educate citizens “to reduce injuries and deaths resulting from individuals driving motor vehicles while impaired by marijuana.” It also calls for a federal report to be released publicly two years after its passage, which would lay out best practices and the latest research so state and local health officials finally get assistance from Uncle Sam.
Currently, tests can detect the presence of marijuana in a person’s system, but there’s currently no test to determine whether a person consumed cannabis two weeks or two hours ago. While some states have instituted THC limits, there is no accepted method to determine whether a person is intoxicated.
The bill, which passed by a bipartisan 69-30 votes in the Senate, has now been sent over to the House of Representatives where on Aug. 5 a committee approved a similar measure to allow researchers to use dispensary grade marijuana instead of relying on government-grown products.