Utah Senator Orrin Hatch introduced a Senate bill on Wednesday that would make it easier to research the potential medical benefits of marijuana and whether it’s a safe and effective alternative to opioids.
The bill, known as the Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act of 2017, or MEDS Act, is being introduced at a time when the U.S. is grappling with an opioid crisis that has caused teen overdose deaths rates to spike, a significant drop in U.S. labor force participation—particularly among American men, and has prompted President Trump to declare it a national emergency.
Hatch, who is Mormon, is still opposed to recreational use of marijuana. But he noted, in prepared remarks filled with marijuana-related puns, that it’s time to remove barriers preventing legitimate research into medical marijuana.
The bill, hopes to encourage research in potential medical uses of marijuana by streamlining the research registration process and make marijuana more available for scientific and medical research and the commercial production of any FDA-approved drugs derived from marijuana. If passed, the U.S. Attorney General would be required increase the national marijuana quota in a timely manner to meet the changing medical, scientific, and industrial needs for marijuana.
The bill would include protections to ensure controlled marijuana substances are not abused, according to Hatch’s office. National Institute on Drug Abuse would be required to develop and publish recommendations for good manufacturing practices for growing and producing marijuana for research.
Here’s an excerpt of the speech he is expected to deliver on the Senate floor at 3:30 p.m. ET:
Senators Schatz (D-HI). Chris Coons (D-DE), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) are co-sponsors of the bill. There are other marijuana medical research bills that have been introduced to the Senate this year, including the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States, or CARERS Act by Senators Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Corey Booker (D-New Jersey) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York).