Orrin Hatch Sponsors Medical Marijuana Research Bill

Philip Fairbanks

Utah Senator and former Mormon Bishop, Senator Orrin Hatch, came out with a strong statement supporting medical marijuana this week. Hatch, in announcing his new bill, defended medicinal cannabis use and medical marijuana (MMJ) research, saying," [It] has the potential to help millions of Americans," and "can truly change people's lives for the better."

Senator Hatch has previously been called a "natural ally" of supplements, and last year, he was one of the first congresspersons to come out in support of the Southeast Asian plant, kratom, that has become popular with many in the US after hundreds of years as a folk medicine in Indonesia and elsewhere. Hatch sponsored one of the "dear colleague" letters that forestalled the attempted Drug Enforcement Agency scheduling of kratom.

"It's high time to address research into medical marijuana," he added. "Our country has experimented with a variety of state solutions without properly delving into the weeds on the effectiveness, safety, dosing, administration, and quality of medical marijuana. All the while, the federal government strains to enforce regulations that sometimes do more harm than good. To be blunt, we need to remove the administrative barriers preventing legitimate research into medical marijuana, which is why I've decided to roll out the MEDS Act."

He later urged Congress to join in their "joint effort" and expressed "high hopes" for bipartisan cooperation in passing the MEDS Act.

Many Twitter users have claimed that Senator Hatch may have intentionally thrown some tongue-in-cheek references into his statement by noting his use of terms like "it's high time," "be blunt," "delving in the weeds," and mention of "strains."

— kelly cohen (@politiCOHEN_) September 13, 2017

— Axios (@axios) September 13, 2017

The bill, if passed, will not only aim to streamline the legitimate scientific and clinical research into MMJ and medicinal cannabis products, but it will also work hand in hand with the Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) to publish recommendations for Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) for growing and producing medicinal cannabis used in research. The NIDA would also be tapped to help ensure that the drug was not abused or diverted. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) would be involved in expediting DEA registration for qualified researchers, and the Attorney General would be required to increase the national marijuana quota "in a timely manner." The Department of Health and Human Services would be barred from adding any new protocols related to medicinal marijuana trials, apart from the voluntary review available from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

It remains to be seen what Attorney General Jeff Sessions will have to say about the bill. Sessions has been a vocal proponent against the use of any drugs, including marijuana, going so far as to famously say "Good people don't use marijuana." As well as complaining about former President Obama's "lax treatment" of marijuana, claiming, "It reverses 20 years almost of hostility to drugs that began really when Nancy Reagan started 'Just Say No.'"

[Featured Image by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images]