On January 15, 2020, Congress held a hearing to discuss how current federal regulations are inhibiting much-needed research on cannabis. The legal status of cannabis medicine is a schedule one drug at the federal level, and regulators admitted how this classification halts research on the plant. The meeting comes after The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health proposed reforms to these restrictive cannabis laws in the U.S.
During the congressional hearing, members questioned agents and witnesses from federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The majority of questions revolved around hurdles to proper cannabis research.
Congress and committee members expressed the contraction of restrictions these federal agencies place on cannabis, thus halting the research that is needed to pursue nationwide reform of cannabis laws. Members also expressed how federal laws haven’t been keeping up with that of state regulations.
“While state laws and public perception around cannabis and its derivatives have evolved over the years, much of the federal framework that regulates cannabis has stayed the same,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone.
Subcommittee leaders continued to press federal agents and drive home the point that research will continue to stall if progress isn’t made at the national level.
“[Cannabis researchers] can’t conduct research until they show cannabis has a medical use, but they can’t demonstrate cannabis has medical use until they can conduct research,” said Subcommittee Chairwoman, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo of California, representative of California’s 18th congressional district.
As the hearing continued, representatives admitted how cannabis prohibition has been a mistake at the federal level. Many advocates of the plant might think this is a vast understatement, but at least some federal representatives are conceding these things – including how many U.S. taxpayers have been wrongfully convicted and jailed for possession of cannabis.
“The United States Congress made a mistake. Dialogue has not truly allowed the research that needs to be done for us to properly categorize cannabis in this country. As a result, millions of [Amercians] have been subjected to incarceration and a criminal record that otherwise, they would have a much more productive and better life and that as a society,” Representative Tony Cardenas said.
Only time will tell if any progress will be made regarding the federal classification of cannabis and its regulations nationwide. Until then, 33 U.S. states have currently legalized cannabis for medical purposes, with more likely coming until something finally happens at the federal level.