Republican Congressman Andy Harris is not a progressive. The four term legislator from Maryland has been one of the main forces behind Washington D.C.’s continued ban on retail pot shops, despite the District’s legal weed regulations, and once threatened to pull state funding from a public university because a group of students wanted to host an open screening of a big budget porn movie. In his latest move, Harris is abandoning his prohibitive tactics and calling for an increase in cannabis research.
According to Rolling Stone, Harris, a licensed doctor, is the lead sponsor on a new piece of legislation that would expand the legal avenues for cannabis research, in hopes that scientific investigation can give more insight into the plant that’s been federally illegal for decades. But while Harris’ educational push may seem enlightened, the Congressman’s motives are still menacingly ignorant.
"As a physician, I believe it's going to show it's really not helpful in a whole lot of diseases," Rep. Harris told Rolling Stone. "And in fact what will be shown to be helpful – as has been [shown] in a lot of the diseases where it's useful –are actually not the whole marijuana plant but purified components of marijuana, like CBD or THC."
Harris’ bill, which is receiving vocal bipartisan support thanks to the oddity of its Republican-sponsored pro-pot nature, would reclassify cannabis as a Schedule I C drug, a newly created category that would severely loosen federal regulations on cannabis research and hopefully take away the difficult that most universities and scientists face when attempting to conduct cannabis research.
For cannabis advocates around the country, the bill is a step in the right direction for a federal government that has shunned any attempt to reclassify the drug. Harris, on the other hand, believes that marijuana can have some medical benefits for epileptic patients, and people suffering from cancer and HIV/AIDS, but beyond that, the Maryland-based legislator expects research to show that marijuana is still a dangerous drug with no significant value.
"Once you get past those three, maybe some people with myoclonus from multi-sclerosis, there really is little evidence. There's no evidence really on PTSD – no good objective evidence," Harris told Rolling Stone. "You know the latest claim that is totally unfounded is that somehow we should use medical marijuana to treat opioid dependence. If we're going to call it a medicine, we need to approach marijuana the same way we would approach anything else that's sold as a medicine in the United States, and that is with rigorous scientific research. Which is just too difficult to do under the current rules."
For pro MMJ lawmakers like Representative Morgan Griffith, who was convinced marijuana’s benefits by a constituent who had to move from Griffith’s native Virginia to Colorado to help her daughter fight epilepsy with cannabis oil, the main goal is to pass Harris’ bill, and let the science prove him wrong in the future.
"The deal that Andy and I worked out was, let's at least get legal possibilities to do extensive research. And once we have the science then we can argue about whether or not there's a legitimate medicinal use. I think there is, he thinks there isn't, but he's welcoming the science to be done," Griffith told Rolling Stone.
"You know most of your research facilities don't want to invest in something where they might be in trouble a year from now or two years from now. So we want to give them that stability that as long as you're using it to research for medicinal purposes, let's use it. And of course as I've always said, if we can use opiates and barbiturates, we certainly ought to be able to use marijuana for medicinal purposes."