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house Bill H.R. 5634

Should There be More Sources of Medical Marijuana For Federally-Funded Research?

Argument in favor

Medical cannabis has many potential applications. Federally-funded researchers should have access to high-quality product with which to conduct research, and veterans should be able to be advised on, and participate in, federally-approved trials.

Argument opposed

Banning people with criminal records from working at cultivators and requiring cultivators to have letters of good standing from local law enforcement agencies may make it harder for cultivators to run their businesses.

What is House Bill H.R. 5634?

This bill -- known as the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018 -- would increase the number of cannabis manufacturers allowed to grow the substance for legitimate research purposes; authorize healthcare providers at the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide recommendations to veterans regarding participating in federally-approved cannabis clinical trials; and create a “safe harbor” for VA researchers and VA-funded institutions studying medical cannabis and the patients in federally-approved medical cannabis clinical trials. It would not interfere with or change federal or state laws or law enforcement, or make any changes to cannabis’ legal status.

Starting in 2019,  the Attorney General (AG) would be required to increase the number of manufacturers allowed to manufacture cannabis for legitimate research purposes from its current number of one to at least three.

Manufacturers authorized by the AG would be required to:

  • Comply with all applicable requirements of this legislation;

  • Limit the transfer and sale of any cannabis they manufacture under this legislation to researchers registered to conduct research with Schedule I controlled substances, preclinical research, and clinical investigations;

  • Transfer or sell any cannabis manufactured pursuant to this bill only with the prior, written consent of the AG;

  • Complete an application and review process for the bulk manufacture of schedule I controlled substances;

  • Have a process for storing and handling schedule I controlled substances that includes inventory control and security monitoring;

  • Be able to provide at least 10 unique plant cultivars to ensure plant diversity and scale up to produce bulk plant material on an uninterrupted basis to meet forecasted demand;

  • Hold a license to manufacture cannabis in each state in which they conduct operations;

  • Complete criminal background checks for all personnel involved in their operations, in order to confirm that they have no convictions for felonies or drug-related misdemeanors;

  • Have a letter of reference from state health and law enforcement authorities in whose jurisdictions they operate, affirming their good standing; and

  • Have the ability to test for and isolate at least 12 cannabinoids for the purposes of producing specific products for specific studies by compounding pharmacists or others, labeling, and chemical consistency

The AG would be responsible for conducting annual assessments to determine whether there’s an adequate and uninterrupted supply for cannabis for legitimate research purposes.

This legislation would also explicitly allow healthcare providers at the VA to: 1) provide information to veterans regarding participation in federally-approved cannabis clinical trials, and 2) to complete forms relating to veterans’ participation in federally-approved cannabis clinical trials.

It’d also allow healthcare providers and other VA employees to accept information regarding federally-approved cannabis clinical trials provided by individuals who are not VA employees, as long as they are researchers registered under the Controlled Substances Act to conduct research with schedule I controlled substances. Finally, this legislation would allow the VA to conduct medical cannabis research for the VA employees conducting the research are researchers registered under the Controlled Substances Act to conduct research with schedule I controlled substances.


Medical cannabis research; VA health care providers; VA hospitals; Department of Veterans Affairs; and the Attorney General.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 5634

A CBO cost estimate for this bill is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) introduced this bill to allow researchers to study the potential cures medical cannabis may unlock:

“This bipartisan cannabis reform legislation will improve the quality of scientific research on cannabis, while protecting research institutions nationwide. I fully believe that this bill has a chance to pass this Congress and be signed into law by the President, who expressed his support for medical cannabis during his campaign. It is monumental for the House Judiciary Committee to consider cannabis-related legislation. They have not tackled legislation on this topic since 1978, before I was born. I have been assured that the committee will take up my legislation, however; the Medical Cannabis Research Act was cosponsored by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, and his office was instrumental in helping to draft the final legislation. He has been invaluable in making this legislation a reality, and I thank him for his help.
Cannabis has always faced a Catch-22 in Congress: we can’t change cannabis laws without doing research, but we can’t do more research without changing the law. Our bill finally breaks that logjam. This legislation will make a tremendous difference to researchers nationwide, who may finally be able to develop cures for illnesses that affect many of America’s most vulnerable populations. I thank my colleagues for their support, and look forward to passing sweeping cannabis reform legislation this Congress.”

Some drug policy reform advocates, who otherwise strongly support expanding medical marijuana research, have expressed concerns with some of this bill’s provisions. Namely, they don’t like that it bars people with felony or drug-related misdemeanor convictions from being affiliated with research cultivation operations, or that it requires research cultivation operations to have letters of good standing from local law enforcement agencies, many of which have historically opposed cannabis reform. Michael Collins, interim director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs, says:

“Precedent is the biggest concern. If the committee is already on the record saying we ban people from participating in this sector of this industry, that's going to possibly win the day going forward. While the bill’s consideration represents progress, it’s a drop in the ocean given what we need to do to end federal prohibition and repair the harms of the drug war… [and the restrictive provisions are] egregious, unnecessary, and representative of an outdated approach to public policy.”

In response to these concerns, Rep. Gaetz says that he doesn’t necessarily disagree, saying, “I would go a lot further. If I was king for a day, marijuana doctrine would look different from this bill.” But he argues that the concessions in the bill were needed to get other GOP lawmakers on board:

"For many of my Republican colleagues, the most difficult marijuana reform vote to take is the first one. I'm trying to create the most comfortable setting for marijuana skeptics to do something right by their constituents, and that process can yield imperfect legislation that is directionally correct."

However, Collins contends that removing the restrictions in this bill wouldn’t harm its chance at passage, and argues that the restrictions may actually make passage less likely because criminal justice reform advocates who otherwise wouldn’t care about a marijuana research bill are now concerned:

“The provisions are overly cautious and unnecessary given what the committee has voted on in the past (namely, broader criminal justice reform aimed at giving people second chances after serving prison terms)... [the Drug Policy Alliance] would like to get behind this bill, but with these provisions it's going to be very difficult.”

NORML, a nonprofit public-interest advocacy group advocating for marijuana reform, calls this legislation a step in the right direction to lay the foundation for future medical cannabis research in spite of its overly-restrictive permitting process. NORML Political Director Justin Stekal says:

“The Medical Cannabis Research Act would, in theory, dramatically expand access to medical grade cannabis for researchers for scientific purposes. While the bill is imperfect as it would rely on known prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions to oversee an overly restrictive permitting process, its passage would be a step in the right direction to lay the foundation for future research into marijuana’s most beneficial properties.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a Senate hearing in 2017 that adding additional cannabis cultivators would be “healthy,” and testified at a hearing in spring 2018 that a dozen applications for additional cultivators’ licensing would be acted upon “soon.” However, nothing has been announced as of September 2018.

The Dept. of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel has recently concluded that this bill’s plan to license more growers violates U.N. drug treaties. However, the Obama administration’s State Department said in 2016 that allowing additional cultivators wouldn’t violate international agreements.

This bill will go before the House Judiciary Committee for a vote on Thursday. It has the support of 40 cosponsors, including 19 Republicans and 21 Democrats. Most notably, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who has historically opposed marijuana reform, is an original cosponsor of this bill. Rep. Goodlatte’s support has been key to this bill’s advancement.

Of Note: Currently, all federally-approved studies of medical cannabis receive their product from one subpar source. This leads to product that is weak and often moldy, potentially causing illness. In addition to being poor quality, federally-grown cannabis is also scarce. In the closing months of the Obama administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) moved to create a process to license additional cannabis cultivators, but the Trump administration’s DEA has since blocked DEA from acting on the proposals, leaving applications from over two dozen entities unread. AG Sessions has stated that action on these applications is coming “soon,” but DOJ has made no other statements on these applications.

Some federally-funded institutions, such as universities, are interested in researching medical cannabis, but can’t do so, as it would jeopardize their federal funding.


Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo / LPETTET)


Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018

Official Title

To increase the number of manufacturers registered under the Controlled Substances Act to manufacture cannabis for legitimate research purposes, to authorize health care providers of the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide recommendations to veterans regarding participation in federally-approved cannabis clinical trials, and for other purposes.

bill Progress

  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Energy and Commerce
      Committee on the Judiciary
      Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security
      Committee on Veterans' Affairs
    IntroducedApril 26th, 2018
    Medical marijuana should definitely be made in all states even recreational use for anyone above the age of 26. By this time brain development has matured. Using marijuana before this age over long periods can cause brain damage. But, marijuana use is very common and has so many helpful properties for medicine. It amazes me that alcohol, benzos, and antidepressants are legal but this isn't? So many people cause disruptions in society from alcohol yet it is legal not to mention it raises your chances of cancer badly from chronic use. Marijuana is used daily by many responsible people who are successful citizens and good parents to their kids. It is crazy to me that somehow marijuana is seen as bad as it is by so many politicians. Jeff Sessions even said "good people don't smoke marijuana" which is ridiculous. Research is needed by organizations not associated with government to prove to the government what many already know. Doctors around the nation beginning to ask for solid research findings so they may prescribe it in their clinics. People with bad anxiety especially can benefit tremendously from marijuana. There ya two cents in a few short sentences.
    Like (2)
    LEGALIZE WEED BEFORE WE HAVE TO START FIRING JUDGES!!! JUDGES ARE ONLY JUDGES WHILE THEY PRACTICE GOOD BEHAVIOUR Article 3! We Do Not allow our Servants to Wilfully Usurp The Will Of the People! We have a separation of Power! It is our Right to Have the FINAL Say on All Rules Regulations Fees And Fines That are Created and Enforced in OUR NAME! We the People are the STATE and Collectively the States Make Up The UNION WE CALL THE USA!!!!!!! We Dont Have to Take a Oath to Ourselves the way we have Made Every Officer that has Ever Existed to Do! Either you are following the Constitution to the Letter as Amended By the
    Like (1)
    Definitely. I think marijuana has already been proven to be relatively safe, but more research is always a good thing. Especially when it can help provide grounds for medical legalization nationwide
    Like (1)
    The medical benefits of marijuana have been proven
    Like (1)
    We need to start some where. This seems like a good place to start
    This is a no brainer. It can help cancer patients and those who suffer for seizures. Increase the research.
    We need science to validate the effective use of medical marijuana. Lots of people claim benefits from using cannabis products. Research needs to be done to determine what really works and when it works best.
    We should find out as much as we can. Just like any drug, legal or otherwise.
    The cigarette companies are putting formaldehyde in our tobacco. The hospitals are putting chemical poison in our cancer patients. The vehicle manufacturers are putting bullshit in our oxygen. Medical cannabis is happening, just as it has for the past hundred years or better. Its a natural product with multiple benefits, many of which might someday stand to eliminate some of the things listed above. Embrace it.
    Yes! I absolutely believe that this is a necessary step from helping opioid addiction to treating our veterans with something OTHER than addictive pills. The convict employment language must be changed but otherwise this is a good step in the right direction.