September 14, 2020
Key House Committee passes the Medical Marijuana Research Act and Legislation to address the Opioid Epidemic
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce advanced several pieces of legislation that address pain medicine, including bills to research the use of medical marijuana and to help combat the ongoing opioid epidemic. The bills are now eligible for consideration by the full House.
The Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2019, bi-partisan legislation cosponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer and physician anesthesiologist Rep. Andy Harris, passed out of the Committee on Energy and Commerce on September 9, 2020. If passed by the House, H.R. 3797 would amend the Controlled Substances Act to make marijuana accessible for use by qualified marijuana researchers for medical purposes. In a systematic review presented at ANESTHESIOLOGY 2019, preliminary evidence suggests that medical marijuana could lessen opioid use and potential abuse, however ASA believes more rigorous scientific research needs to be conducted in order to consider the drug a safe alternative to opioids. H.R. 3797 would allow marijuana to be produced through the National Institute on Drug Abuse Supply Program and offer for sale immature marijuana plants to qualified marijuana researchers under the Controlled Substances Act. Researchers conducting studies on marijuana use will be registered by the Attorney General and must demonstrate effective procedures in place to safeguard against diversion of marijuana for legitimate medical and scientific use.
Several other bills were passed out of the Committee, including two pieces of legislation, H.R. 2281, the Easy Medication Access and Treatment for Opioid Addiction Act, and H.R. 2466, the State Opioid Response Grant Authorization Act, both aimed at addressing the national opioid epidemic. H.R. 2281 would help patients suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD) by amending regulations so that practitioners may provide a 3 days’ supply of medication when administering narcotic drugs for the purpose of relieving acute withdrawal symptoms. Under current regulations, physicians are authorized to give a patient 1 days’ worth of medication assisted treatment (MAT) for 3 consecutive days, forcing patients to keep going back to the doctor. H.R. 2466, the State Opioid Response Grant Authorization Act, authorizes $1 billion over four years to address the opioid epidemic through increasing access to medication-assisted treatment programs and reducing opioid overdose-related deaths.
ASA supports rigorous studies on marijuana, and in 2019 endorsed two bills to expand the research: H.R. 601, the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019 and S.2032, the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act. ASA promotes a reduction in the use of opioids in the surgical setting and applauds the lawmakers’ response to tackling the opioid epidemic nationwide.