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The Senate will hold a hearing about the medical benefits and risks of marijuana Wednesday, in a move to better understand a substance that has picked up increasing support nationally.
The hearing, chaired by South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, seeks to gain information from medical professionals and government officials regarding marijuana as a medical treatment. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker and a slate of doctors from various fields will be testifying at the hearing.
Graham, who only recently joined the fight for medical marijuana, voted in 1999 to deny medical marijuana for the District of Columbia. Graham said in a 2010 interview with Mike Stark that the federal government, not the states, should have the power to make marijuana available medicinally.
However, in 2015 Graham changed his tune. “Count me in for medical marijuana,” Graham told CNN’s Dana Bash in an interview on “Politics On Tap.”
A series of studies done by The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California in San Diego (UCSD), with approval from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), concluded that marijuana is indeed beneficial for certain ailments.
“Cannabinoids may be useful medicine for certain indications,” Igor Grant, executive vice chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at USCD, wrote in the study.
Marijuana is currently listed by the DEA as a Schedule I drug, which means that it has no medicinal value and therefore, no research can be done on it. Although the DEA has softened its stance by allowing narrow research to be done on the drug, it is still listed as Schedule I.
The American Epilepsy Society (AES) says the classification hinders scientific progress in understanding the benefits of marijuana as a medical treatment.
“The American Epilepsy Society urges that marijuana’s status as a Federal DEA Schedule 1 controlled substance be reviewed,” AES said in a March press release. “Current restrictions on the use of medical marijuana for research continue to stand in the way of scientifically rigorous research into the development of cannabinoid-based treatments.”
Gillibrand and Booker co-sponsored the pro-medicinal marijuana Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act in 2015, but Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, denied a hearing. Graham joined as a co-sponsor of the bill in March of 2016. The bill aims to, among other things, reschedule marijuana to allow broader research and allow Veterans Health Administration doctors to prescribe marijuana to veterans.
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