A bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers has been sent to Attorney General William Barr to implore him to grant researchers better access to marijuana.

Congressman Harley Rouda and Senator Brian Schatz secured the signatures of 19 fellow lawmakers from across the country for the letter. It urged Barr to instruct the Drug Enforcement Administration to allow federally licensed researchers to buy products from licensed dispensaries to study the medical benefits and risks of cannabis.

Rouda branded American cannabis laws “archaic”. “Forty-seven states have legalized some form of cannabis consumption – we must ensure our federal agencies and other licensed institutions can comprehensively study the benefits and risks of cannabis products,” said Rouda, who serves in the United States House of Representatives from California’s 48th congressional district.

Thirty lawmakers wrote to Barr and DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon in May 2019 to demand that federal authorities speed up research into the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis. They lambasted the slow and arduous process that researchers must undertake to get their hands on marijuana for testing purposes, and urged reform of the system.

A few months ago, the DEA pledged to increase the number of cannabis growers who are federally authorized to conduct cannabis research. It then unveiled plans to increase the amount of marijuana legally produced for research purposes in the U.S. by 30% in 2020. This year’s cannabis quota is 2,450 kg and the DEA aims to increase that to 3,200 kg next year to allow more research to take place.

The National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration have both acknowledged we need further research on cannabis to understand its potential medical benefits and risks. However, thus far the DEA has only registered one organization – University of Mississippi – to produce research-grade cannabis, limiting the diversity of products available to researchers.

Lawmakers are now urging Barr and Dhillon to permit researchers to simply source cannabis from legal dispensaries in states that permit marijuana sales. Researchers claim the marijuana they can currently access is below par, and going direct to the dispensaries would enable them to perform tests on the strains that patients are already accessing.

Rouda and Schatz asked Barr to respond to them by Dec. 20. They are also seeking clarification regarding hemp provisions included in the 2018 Farm Bill.

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