Biden Signs Historic Marijuana Research Bill, Lawmakers Push Additional Measures

Legislators want to pass additional measures before the end of the year.

All eyes are on Congress during the lame-duck session, with many hoping that a few longstanding cannabis reform proposals will make across the president’s desk before the turn of the year.

After months of policy debates and trading barbs on Capitol Hill, a U.S. president has finally sent through the first piece of meaningful marijuana legislation since The Controlled Substance Act of 1970.

President Joe Biden on Friday signed the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act shortly after the measure received a green light from the Senate last month. The bill expands access for researchers to study the plant and directs certain federal agencies to assist with the expanded research.

In a statement signed by co-chairs Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Dave Joyce (R-OH), and Brian Mast (R-FL), the Congressional Cannabis Caucus celebrated the passage of “this critical and long-overdue legislation…we know there is much more to do to remedy the ongoing harms of the failed war on drugs.”

The caucus continued, “Our caucus will continue working to reimagine the federal government’s approach to cannabis and enact further reforms. In the coming weeks, we are committed to passing subsequent bipartisan, common-sense proposals” such as the SAFE Banking package, the Veterans Equal Access Act, the PREPARE Act, and the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act.

Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) also last week filed a bill that would create a federal commission to help outline the ways in which federal agencies approach implementation of eventual legalization.

According to the bill provisions, Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult Use Regulated Environment (PREPARE) Act would direct the U.S. Attorney General to establish a “commission on the federal regulation of cannabis” to help create a framework modeled after existing federal and state regulations for alcohol.

The commission would be made up of 24 nominees and representatives from a range of government agencies and those chosen by Senate and House leadership. The commission would not have rule-making authority, and its only role would be to develop proposals and make policy recommendations.

The measure states that the framework would have to account for “the unique needs, rights, and laws of each state” and would have to be presented to Congress within one year after the act is signed into law.

The regulatory framework would also have to includes ways to:

  • Remedy the disproportionate impact cannabis prohibition has had on minority, low-income, and veteran communities.
  • Encourage research and training access by medical professionals.
  • Encourage economic opportunity for individuals and small businesses.
  • Develop protections for the hemp industry.

“A decade after Colorado pioneered marijuana legalization, Americans overwhelmingly support the same at the federal level,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “This bipartisan, bicameral framework, based on Colorado’s Amendment 64 task force, will replicate our success nationally.”

The bill has received a slew of support from across the industry, including the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation (CPEAR), the US Cannabis Council (USCC), the city of Denver, the National Hispanic Cannabis Council, the Black Cannabis Equity Initiative, and the National Cannabis Industry Association.

“Colorado’s experience has demonstrated that regulating marijuana is not just possible, it’s effective,” Denver-based Vicente Sederberg founder Brian Vicente said. “Leaders in other states and even other countries are visiting Colorado and looking to it for guidance as they consider moving beyond prohibition in their jurisdictions. Likewise, Colorado is learning from the experiences of other states.”

Adam Jackson

Adam Jackson covers the cannabis industry for The Green Market Report. He previously covered the Missouri statehouse for The Columbia Missourian and has written for The Missouri Independent. He most recently covered retail, restaurants, and other consumer companies for Bloomberg Business News. You can find him on Twitter @adam_sjackson and email him at adam.jackson@crain.com.


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