Medical Marijuana Federal Laws Changing, Matt Gaetz Backs Cannabis

Medical Marijuana Federal Laws Changing, Matt Gaetz Backs Cannabis

Medical marijuana federal laws have long been an impediment to cannabis rights in the United States. Consequences are severe and range from forcing cannabis businesses to operate in dangerous cash economies, to arresting cannabis smokers on federal lands. Additionally, valuable medical research into the plant is hamstrung and as a result, America falls behind in the newest and most exciting field of scientific inquiry. Federal laws that restrict cannabis are responsible for the scars of prohibition persisting, even in states that have gone the route of legalization.

There is a general consensus, that the most significant consequence of federal prohibition and weed’s schedule 1 status is that the United States is falling behind in medical marijuana research. Other nations such as Canada and Israel are inclined to profit and pick up the slack.

This situation is dismal, however, change is on the horizon. The future of cannabis in the United States is full of promise as a Republican, Matt Gaetz is championing a bill that would change medical marijuana federal laws for the better.

So what is this bill? And why is Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, its chief supporter?

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The Medical Cannabis Research Act: A Land Mark For Medical Marijuana Federal Laws

Cannabis’s schedule 1 status has not completely stopped medical research from occurring in the United States. However medical marijuana federal laws have ensured that research programs into the plant are in a sorry state of affairs indeed.

For the past 50 years, just one farm at the University of Mississippi has supplied marijuana to researchers in a nation of over 320 million. Unsurprisingly, cannabis has been difficult for scientists to obtain legitimately. The weed that has been available to them is of extremely poor quality and thus not suitable for extensive research.

Florida Republican congressman, Matt Gaetz, is championing a bill that would change medical marijuana federal laws so that researchers will be granted access to higher yields of research-grade cannabis. The Medical Cannabis Research Act would achieve this by requiring the federal government to issue more grow licesnses, thus enabling scientists more access to marijuana.

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Why is a Republican Changing Medical Marijuana Federal Laws?

Republican elephant with weed
A majority of Republicans are in support of broad legalization of marijuana… as it turns out, not all GOP members are as hostile to cannabis as the Trump administration (image via prohbtd)

In recent years more and more Republicans are coming out in support of marijuana. In fact, a majority of Republicans currently favor the legalization of cannabis. Congressman Matt Gaetz is among this new breed of politicians. The congressman clearly illustrated why he supports amending medical marijuana federal laws. He said the following in a phone interview on the subject.

“The federal government should not stand in the way of collaboration that can help people live better lives”
Matt Gaetz was also keen to acknowledge that the Medical Cannabis Research Act was entering a hence unchartered territory,
“This will be the first time that a cannabis reform bill will make it through the Judiciary Committee during Republican control of Congress, ever.”

The congressman and 40 other bipartisan cosponsors are proof that even in the most divisive of times, common ground can unite the most bitter of political opposition. Amendment of medical marijuana federal laws is long overdue and it is refreshing to see that even amidst a vehemently anti-cannabis administration, the will of the people triumphs in one capacity or another.

However, the bill is not without its criticisms, and many feel as if congressman Matt Gaetz has given cannabis rights activists a bitter pill to swallow.

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Criticisms of the Medical Cannabis Research Act — Amendments to the Medical Marijuana Federal Laws Too Conservative

Micheal Collins of the Drug Policy Alliance
Micheal Collins of the Drug Policy Alliance has been critical of the bill proposed by Matt Gaetz… Many feel that prohibiting people with drug charges from participating in the market is a bitter pill to swallow (image via Twitter)

Many drug policy advocates have criticized the Medical Cannabis Research Act as not going far enough.

One such criticism involved a provision of the bill concerning ex-cons. In states with legal cannabis, policymakers have been working hard to expunge offenses of those with drug-related criminal records. However, for those with drug-related offenses remaining on their record, this amendment to medical marijuana federal laws would bar them from being affiliated with research cultivation operations.

Barring people who were convicted of a drug-related offense from participation in the new lucrative cannabis industry is seen as hypocritical by many. To continue to prohibit these people from market participation is to simultaneously acknowledge the futility of prohibition, and codify the scars it left upon the American people, with the same stroke of the pen.

Matt Gaetz and his co-sponsors have come under fire for this, and Micheal Collins, interim director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs was first to launch a salvo.

“If the committee is already on the record saying we ban people from participating in this sector of this industry, that’s going to possibly win the day going forward. While the bill’s consideration represents progress, it’s a drop in the ocean given what we need to do to end federal prohibition and repair the harms of the drug war,”

Collins would add that the bill’s additional provisions are antiquated and draconian. The Drug Policy Alliance would thus be unable to support Matt Gaetz and his bi-partisan committee in their efforts.

“The provisions are overly cautious and unnecessary given what the committee has voted on in the past. We would like to get behind this bill, but with these provisions it’s going to be very difficult,”
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Medical marijuana federal laws have been in need of an overhaul for quite some time. The current status quo has seen the United States fall behind in a field of scientific research that it should be spearheading.

While cannabis activists might be anxious to end the prohibition on research in the United States (and with good reason) they should hasten to accept a less than palatable solution,

By the admission of Matt Gaetz himself, the Medical Cannabis Research Act does not go far enough.

“If I was king for a day, marijuana doctrine would look different than this bill.”
While 100 years of prohibition have no doubt made political expediency look seductive, Americans should hasten against taking their candy with a side of manure. 

At times, conservative opposition has made it difficult to enact legalization exactly as cannabis rights activists would like it. One needs only to look north at Canada’s bizarre marijuana driving laws.

While Americans might be eager to dive headlong into Matt Gaetz proposal, perhaps Fabien tactics could ensure the best possible outcome.

By: Stefan Hosko
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