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Historic US cannabis research bill sparks calls for change in the UK

Leaders have called for UK government to increase funding and making it easier for companies to invest in research.

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President Biden signed The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act into US law on 2 December. Photo by Thomas Lin.

Industry leaders hope the passing of a landmark bill to expand cannabis research in the US will encourage the UK government to recognise its potential.

Following the passing of historical new legislation in the US, cannabis industry leaders have called for the UK government to recognise its potential as a ‘world leader’ by making it easier for companies to invest in research and development. 

On Friday 2 December, President Biden signed The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act into US law, making it easier for scientists to study the therapeutic effects and potential of cannabis.

The new bill aims to overcome some of the blocks that have prevented more scientific research from being conducted, as cannabis is federally illegal in the US.

Despite the number of published research papers in the field reaching an all-time high in 2021, a lack of scientific evidence is often cited as the reason why cannabis is not more widely accepted by the medical establishment.

The legislation will streamline the application process and remove current US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) barriers, hopefully encouraging more to investigate the plant and its potential medicinal benefits. 

It establishes a separate registration process to facilitate research on cannabis, allowing certain registered entities, including universities, medical practitioners and producers, to ‘manufacture, distribute, dispense, or possess marijuana or cannabidiol (CBD) for the purposes of medical research’. 

‘The foundational path forward’

Co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Dave Joyce (R-OH), and Brian Mast (R-FL), who introduced the bill in June, celebrated its passing in a statement. 

“For decades, the federal government has stood in the way of science and progress – peddling a misguided and discriminatory approach to cannabis. Today marks a monumental step in remedying our federal cannabis laws. The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act will make it easier to study the impacts and potential of cannabis,” they commented.

“Research is foundational for the path forward on cannabis policy. Research is essential to better understand the therapeutic benefits of cannabis that have the potential to help millions of Americans struggling with chronic pain, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, anxiety disorders and more.

“We celebrate the enactment of this critical and long-overdue legislation, and we know there is much more to do to remedy the ongoing harms of the failed war on drugs. 

“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 like the SAFE Banking package, the Veterans Equal Access Act, the PREPARE Act, and the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act.”

Recognising the need for research in the UK

Representatives from the UK have welcomed the historic move in the hope that it may encourage its own government to recognise the value in building the evidence base for medicinal cannabis. 

The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) said in a statement it ‘welcomes the positive legislative developments in the United States to advance clinical understanding of medical cannabis’. 

It has also called for more government funding to be assigned for research and development (R&D) in order to establish the UK as a ‘world leader’ in cannabis research and innovation.

“The new Medical Marijuana Research Bill appointed by President Biden will hopefully encourage the UK Government to reconsider their stance on cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs) and cannabis policy,” Victoria Logan, events and communications lead for the CMC, told Cannabis Health.

“The UK urgently requires clinical research, as we are sorely missing the data and understanding. The UK Government needs to expand their funding in R&D to be able to explore the impacts and huge potential of cannabis. 

“Rather than allowing social and political conservatism to stand in the way, we should be focusing on growing the UK into a world leader in cannabinoid innovation and research.”

Elsewhere, the Cannabis Industry Council (CIC) repeated calls to make it easier for companies to invest in research and development and for regulators to recognise the value in real-world evidence alongside randomised controlled trials. 

“The Cannabis Industry Council is supportive of any shift towards a research model for cannabis that prioritises patients and understands commercial realities. The new Medical Marijuana Research Expansion Act signed by US President Joe Biden is therefore to be welcomed,” said chief executive Mike Morgan-Giles.

“However, in the UK it is currently very challenging for companies to undertake clinical trials and invest in R&D. Using real-world evidence of patient progress, as well as randomised control trials, would be an important step in the right direction. 

“Furthermore, reforming the rules around investment by legal cannabis businesses based overseas would help bring in direct foreign investment to the country.

Home » News » Historic US cannabis research bill sparks calls for change in the UK

Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister title and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email sarah@prohibitionpartners.com / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag

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