Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn is now calling for changing the federal classification of marijuana so it can be tested to see whether it has medicinal components.
Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 narcotic on the federal books, which puts it in the same category as heroin and LSD in the eyes of the Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Administration.
That strict designation has kept it from being widely studied by researchers because it’s hard to get a federal waiver to study the plant, and an entire lab can be shut down if they don’t have the proper paperwork. It's proven to be a challenge for state research institutions like Colorado State University's veterinary school or the Change Lab at the University of Colorado. While Congressman Lamborn is no fan of marijuana, he now says he supports studying the potential medicinal qualities of it.
“If nothing else, I would like to see the ability for researchers to study the medical effects of marijuana to see if the benefits are really there, as some people claim, and you can't do that right now when it's a level category one controlled substance,” Lamborn tells CPR News. “So, at least let's take the step of allowing marijuana to be available to researchers. Now, whether we go beyond that, I'm not sure I could support going beyond that."
There are some competing proposals floating around the Capitol that would enable researchers to more easily study cannabis, though Republican leaders haven’t allowed them to come up for votes.
There’s still a fear hanging over Colorado’s marijuana business owners that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will try to crack down on the recreational industry, which is why a growing number of lawmakers in both parties are calling for further protections for Colorado and the other states that now regulate marijuana like alcohol.
That, however, is a step too far for Lamborn.
"Well we can't ignore the fact that under federal law, marijuana is still a controlled substance," Lamborn says, adding that he remains concerned about interstate trafficking of marijuana and the role drug cartels are still playing in black market pot sales. “Things like that clearly should remain a federal role.”
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