A charity organization established by renowned actor Michael J. Fox recently announced its support for legislation that would remove federal roadblocks currently hindering medical marijuana research.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF), a nonprofit dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson's disease, announced its support for three cannabis reform bills that are currently being discussed in Congress. Ted Thompson, the organization's senior vice president of public policy, explained that removing obstacles to medical cannabis research “is one way in which Congress can help scientific researchers determine what the benefits of medical cannabis might be for Parkinson’s disease.”
“The MJFF supports increased access to cannabis for medical research. Congress has begun to recognize this need, and there are several bills in the U.S. House and Senate designed to remove barriers that impede safe and legal access to cannabis by medical researchers,” the organization states. “The MJFF public policy team is tracking these bills and working to educate members of Congress and their staff on their importance to the Parkinson’s community.”
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Specifically, the MJFF is calling for the support of the Medical Cannabis Research Act, a bill that would protect research institutions that wish to study cannabis from federal prosecution. The bill would also direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to inform patients about opportunities to take part in federally-approved cannabis studies. Additionally, this bill would require the DEA to finally approve more institutions to grow federally-sanctioned research cannabis, a process it has delayed for years.
The MJFF is also calling lawmakers to support the Expanding Cannabis Research and Information Act, which would reschedule marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act. This reclassification would officially acknowledge that cannabis is a drug with accepted medical use. The proposed bill would also remove a variety of regulatory restrictions that currently make it difficult for universities to conduct research trials involving marijuana.
The final bill that the organization is advocating for is the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act, which would require the VA to conduct studies investigating whether medical marijuana could help conditions that commonly affect veterans, such as PTSD and chronic pain. Numerous studies have already found that cannabis can be an effective treatment for these conditions, but the VA has steadfastly blocked veterans’ access to this medicine, due to federal illegality.
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“Current policies hinder comprehensive medical research on cannabis, making it difficult to generate the evidence needed for clear recommendations,” said Andrew Koemeter-Cox, MJFF’s associate director of research programs, in a statement. “This is especially problematic when some products may be unsafe for human use and have the potential for adverse interactions with other medications.”
Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's himself, rarely discusses medical marijuana in interviews, but the organization he founded has a long history of advocating for cannabis reform. Last year, the MJFF sent three letters to the Food and Drug Administration urging the agency to support the rescheduling of cannabis by both the US and global governing bodies, and also to urge the FDA to establish labeling and safety regulations for medical cannabis products.
The MJFF also recently released an #AskTheMD video in which MJFF VP of Medical Communications Rachel Dolun, MD, answers questions about how medical cannabis could help those suffering from Parkinson's.
Can medical marijuana help #Parkinsons symptoms? In our latest #AskTheMD video, MJFF VP of Medical Communications @RachelDolhunMD answers common questions about medical marijuana and #Parkinsons disease. https://t.co/iM6QlRLoW0 pic.twitter.com/niJhAObrsq— michaeljfox.org (@MichaelJFoxOrg) October 11, 2019