Dispensary marijuana to be studied by the government

US Senate Joins House to Allow Researchers to Use Dispensary Marijuana

While marijuana has been legalized in more than 20 states, territories, tribes and the nation’s capital, it’s still federally illegal. That’s meant many consumers have been ingesting cannabis without the best data possible, because the DEA’s confined federally funded research to older, weaker cannabis strains that are completely different than what most Americans use these days.

This week a key Senate committee passed a bipartisan proposal to upend the outdated cannabis testing regime that’s been keeping state regulators and consumers alike from the best science researchers are able to conduct.

If the measure which cleared the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee becomes law — and a companion bill was included in a transportation measure that cleared committee last week — researchers will finally be allowed to toss poor government grown cannabis in the trash (where it belongs) and test the consumer-grade marijuana most Americans are used to consuming.

For years, only the University of Mississippi grows federally-approved marijuana for research, and it’s just bad quality — thus nothing like what people actually buy legally in most states.

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The legislation was tucked inside of a larger proposal in the Senate committee and it mandates a federal report about how to seamlessly provide researchers in states that haven’t legalized marijuana to get samples to test from localities where cannabis is legal.

For years, only the University of Mississippi grows federally-approved marijuana for research, and it’s just bad quality — thus nothing like what people actually buy legally in most states.

While freshman Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) — a brewer and former governor who was recently against legalization — is the proposal’s lead sponsor. He says this is essential so the nation’s scientists can help local officials better regulate marijuana, especially when it comes to trying to develop technology similar to a breathalyzer so officers can pinpoint impairment after cannabis consumption.

“Colorado led the way on marijuana legalization, but we’re still hamstrung by federal laws,” the senator tweeted. “I’m working to lift outdated restrictions to help pave the way for a national standard to prevent marijuana-impaired driving. Glad our amendment passed out of the Commerce Committee today.”

While marijuana can be detected in people’s urine or hair for around 30 days, officials say they desperately need a new test kit to allow law enforcement to test impairment immediately like they can do with alcohol.

Like their House counterparts, Hickenlooper’s amendment was also tacked onto a transportation bill in committee before lawmakers unanimously approved it.

Specifically, the marijuana measure gives the Transportation Department, Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services two years to produce a report they’d be mandated to share with policy makers and the public.

The measure would also require recommendations for setting up what amounts to national clearinghouse so officials can “collect and distribute samples and strains of marijuana for scientific research that includes marijuana and products containing marijuana lawfully available to patients or consumers in a State on a retail basis.”

While marijuana can be detected in people’s urine or hair for around 30 days, officials say they desperately need a new test kit to allow law enforcement to test impairment immediately like they can do with alcohol.

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In a separate section of the bill, states that have legalized marijuana — though not any others — would be mandated to conduct education campaigns to dissuade residents from consuming too much cannabis before getting behind the wheel.

But that provision is currently apposed by many advocates who argue the language used in the proposal is too narrowly focused on the states where marijuana is legal. They say it’s silly to think marijuana isn’t also consumed in states where it remains illegal. Though advocates do want to combat impaired driving of all stripes.

Read the full Hickenlooper text below.

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This piece was originally published by Marijuana Moment and has been edited and modified by The News Station. 

Matt Laslo is Managing Editor of The News Station. To learn more about the veteran political reporter and professor -- or to read more of his work -- his bio page is here.

Matt Laslo is Managing Editor of The News Station. To learn more about the veteran political reporter and professor -- or to read more of his work -- his bio page is here.

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