A key Congressional panel defeated a trio of medical marijuana measures this week.
On Tuesday, the U.S. House Rules Committee took up a bill to create a federal task force to investigate best practices in pain management and prescribing pain medication, killing two amendments to study medical marijuana in the process.
The first amendment would have directed the task force, which will include the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Food and Drug Administration, among other agencies, to study the “potential for marijuana to serve as an alternative to opioids for pain management.” The measure was sponsored by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO).
A second amendment from Polis would have required the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the “medical application of marijuana and opioids for pain management,” including their relative addictiveness and efficacy. The measure would have also required a federal comparison of overdose deaths between states that have legalized medical cannabis and those that haven’t.
Speaking before the Rules Committee, Polis cited private studies indicating that states with medical marijuana laws see significantly reduced opioid overdose deaths and that patients who use cannabis consume fewer opiates.
“Medical marijuana is a possible and likely way to reduce opioid prescription painkiller abuse for chronic pain,” he said. “And unfortunately it’s hardly been explored due to government policy, in large part because of the federal government’s monopoly on legal cultivation and studies.”
Polis said that even if medical marijuana doesn’t work for all patients, it does help a significant number of people.
“If it can avoid going onto narcotics like opioids which often lead to abuse, I think it can be an important part of the arsenal in dealing with this plague and epidemic of opioid abuse,” he said.
A third proposed amendment to a separate opioid addiction and recovery bill, sponsored by Reps. Scott Perry (R-PA) and Bob Dold (R-IL), along with Polis, would have excluded cannabis plants and extracts that are rich in cannabidiol (CBD) and low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the from the federal definition of marijuana. A growing number of states — including otherwise very conservative ones — have passed laws in recent years allowing patients to use CBD medicinally, most prominently children who suffer from severe seizure disorders.
The committee ruled that all three amendments were out of order, meaning that they could not be offered for a vote on the House floor.
Although legalization opponents typically speak in favor of letting science determine policy and have strained to show sympathy to children who need CBD medications, one leading prohibition advocate actually publicly cheered the defeat of the three amendments.
“We just defeated 3 more pro pot bills in Rules in the House yesterday,” tweeted Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, the U.S.’s leading anti-legalization organization. “Pot & profiteers having a bad week.”
Photo Courtesy of Thomas Morris.