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Change of heart? Anti-marijuana senators now in favor of CBD research

One of the most unlikely things that could ever happen in the U.S. Senate (well, as far as the marijuana world is concerned) just happened: notorious anti-marijuana senators, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-California) have co-written a piece featured in TIME magazine arguing for the removal of federal restrictions stopping medical marijuana research.

Grassley and Feinstein recently co-chaired a medical marijuana hearing, an event attended by Senators Gillibrand (D-New York) and Booker (D-New Jersey), who co-sponsored the Compassion Access, Research Expansion, and Respect State (CARERS) Act. The goal of the CARER Acts is to have marijuana rescheduled from Schedule I to Schedule II. Supporters of the move point out that there’s no reason marijuana should be classified with more potent,
dangerous drugs like LSD and heroin, something even agreed on by Dr Nora
Volkow, director of the National Institute on Health.

Feinstein and Grassley have called for researchers to be given access to good quality marijuana in the necessary studies to conduct extensive, meaningful testing. But before getting that far, cutting red tape so it’s easier for institutions to get licensed to carry out that research has to happen. Also on the senators’ priority list is increasing availability of CBD products to children who could benefit, as part of the compassionate access scheme.

Ideally, the bills will concentrate on vaping, a safer way for patients to consume CBD than smoking medical marijuana. CBD e-liquid can be vaped solo or combined with other e-juices. The vaping method enables users to administer more potent doses when medicating with CBD vape juice.

We could imagine these sort of noises from marijuana-friendly senators, as rare they are, but to hear it from the likes of Feinstein and Grassley is really surprising. The legislation being mooted primarily concerns the availability of CBD oil for minors with severe epileptic conditions.

It wasn’t long ago that Senator Feinstein was talking a cautious line on the expansion of medical marijuana in her home state of California, and now she’s actively seeking progress at federal level. It’s certainly odd. She would also trot out the same old line about marijuana being a gateway to harder drugs. Indeed, even on the CARERS Act, the act written by senators she now works in tandem with on this very issue, Feinstein was expressing worries, this time on the increase in THC levels in marijuana in recent decades, and whether higher levels could lead to addiction.

Grassley’s marijuana opposition is equally well-documented, with the Republican senator explicitly arguing against the rescheduling of marijuana that the CARERS Act opposed, questioning the available science, yet not forgetting to point to studies favorable to his viewpoint in the process.

Maybe we should be kinder to Senators Grassley and Feinstein and consider this a genuine change of heart from two long-term cannabis critics who now recognize the medical opportunities, and are doing their best to make them available to citizens.

It was only in 2013 that Grassley was calling marijuana a “dangerous and addictive drug” and that it wasn’t classed as Schedule I on a whim. Four years prior to that, Grassley was fully signed up to the “gateway drug” argument, and criticized medical marijuana as being a way to legitimize an illegal drug. Credit to the Iowa senator for learning the issues since then, for understanding his electorate’s concerns and for acting in their interests.

Feinstein’s past activism against marijuana also extended to chairing the campaign against legalizing recreational marijuana in California (Proposition 19) back in 2010, and she’s on record as being against medical marijuana Proposition 215 a further 14 years earlier than that. Feinstein’s first anti-cannabis actions occurred all the way back in 1978 when she became San Francisco Mayor after Mayor George Moscone’s assassination.

Moscone tried to guide San Francisco to a more liberal position on pot, advancing the medical marijuana Proposition W, but his death brought that work to an end, and Feinstein was quick in reversing cannabis progress in the Bay Area. Marijuana arrests rose three-fold following Feinstein’s new police chief appointment.

Nearly 40 years later and Feinstein has seen the errors of her ways on medical marijuana and has finally budged, if only with a concession on CBD. But what more research on marijuana will do is enhance our overall understanding of the plant, on CBD, THC and other compounds. Then, hopefully, that new information can be used to drive the marijuana legalization argument at state level and in Washington.

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