The Biden administration recently passed an infrastructure bill that included a provision for marijuana research. The recently passed infrastructure bill includes a provision that could change marijuana research in the United States.
Section 25026 of the law, called “Report on Marijuana Research,” allows researchers access to “marijuana and products containing marijuana that are lawfully available to patients or consumers in a state on a retail basis” and for the creation of a national clearinghouse that will “collect and distribute samples and strains of [retail-grade] marijuana for scientific research.”
Traditionally, cannabis researchers could only use marijuana grown at the University of Mississippi, which is closer to hemp than the consumer-friendly cannabis that you see people use as the main ingredient for their rolling papers that’s now available at dispensaries throughout the country. It’s challenging to get accurate results unless your test material reflects real-world scenarios. In Arizona, a federally licensed researcher sued the federal government for access to cannabis with higher THC levels – i.e., consumer-grade marijuana.
The provision has generated some optimism in the cannabis community. But, the new law only specifies allowing research into marijuana-impaired driving. And while this one change could open the door for further cannabis research, that door might not open for a few more years.
The new bill calls for the Secretary of Transportation, in collaboration with the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General, to deliver a report to Congress on eliminating barriers that keep researchers from having access to retail-grade cannabis for research by 2023.
Pres. Biden doesn’t support federal legalization. Why the change of heart? Thank the deep pockets of the insurance industry. The American Property and Casualty Insurance Association issued a press release supporting the provision. The association is interested in studying marijuana-impaired driving — impaired driving affects who is at fault in the event of an accident and affects what insurance is required to cover. There is still no accurate system for testing and determining whether a driver under the influence of marijuana is impaired. THC, the chemical agent in cannabis responsible for the high, is an unreliable indicator of a person’s level of impairment.
Early research from the insurance industry found a connection between legalization and increased traffic accidents. Subsequent studies, including a recent study from Canada, have found no such increase.