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Lawmakers Want Legal Protections For Universities That Research Marijuana

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A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill is asking House leadership to protect universities that conduct research on marijuana from being penalized under federal law.

In a letter sent to the chairwoman and ranking member of a House education appropriations subcommittee, Rep. Joe Neguse (D) and 25 colleagues wrote that “there are a multitude of higher education institutions conducting a range of cannabis-related research, including many in our districts, who prefer for future developments to occur through an accredited educational setting.”

Neguse and lead co-author Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), along with the other lawmakers, requested that the subcommittee include specific language in the fiscal year 2020 Labor-Health and Human Services appropriations bill that would prohibit the U.S. Department of Education from withholding federally appropriated dollars from universities that are researching cannabis.

“Formal research is especially important as more states legalize medical marijuana,” the letter states. “We need medical professionals who are equipped with the knowledge to discuss competently issues surrounding cannabis and health. Evidence-based research regarding cannabis ought to be encouraged in academic settings, not discouraged.”

“Our constitutional framework has afforded the whole nation the chance to allow states to differ on many matters of public policy, including cannabis. As a result, that same framework should be extended to the protection of research of cannabis at higher education institutions.”

Other lawmakers signing the letter to the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies include Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA),Ted Lieu (D-CA), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Dina Titus (D-NV) and Don Young (R-AK).

The letter notes that there are many universities that are interested in pursuing scientific and observational research into the marijuana plant, but that the threat of having funds withheld has presented “an undue hurdle for many academic institutions.”

As it stands, universities must comply with a drug-free schools law stipulating that they cannot manufacture, distribute, dispense, possess or use a federally controlled substance. The letter notes that the Department of Education has been silent on the issue, and that’s why the lawmakers are seeking action through the appropriations legislation.

The language they requested be included in the bill reads:

“None of the funds provided by this Act or provided by previous Appropriations Acts to the Department of Education shall be withheld from an institute of higher education solely because that institute is conducting or is preparing to conduct research on marihuana as defined in 21 U.S.C. § 802 (16).”

“The roots of marijuana’s national criminalization run deep throughout the federal code and protecting American universities ability to research and understand the dynamic properties of cannabis is a commonsense next step for the Appropriations Committee to take,” Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, told Marijuana Moment.

Last year, Neguse won the seat of former Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), a longtime marijuana reform champion on Capitol Hill, when he retired to run for Colorado governor.

“This is a great move for Rep. Neguse given his background in higher education and we look forward to what other new ideas he will bring to Congress,” Strekal said.

You can read the full letter below:

FY20 Cannabis Observational… by on Scribd

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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