After U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ rescinded the Cole Memo and related marijuana guidance Jan. 4, 69 members of Congress, including six of Colorado’s seven members, signed a bipartisan letter sent to House leadership requesting protections from federal incursion for states that have legalized marijuana.
Noticeably absent was the signature of Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, who is no fan of his state’s marijuana laws.
But in an interview with Colorado Public Radio that aired Friday, the conservative congressman came out in favor of rescheduling marijuana to allow medical research.
“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 told 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.”
Under the Controlled Substances Act, cannabis is listed alongside heroin, LSD and ecstasy as a Schedule I substance — the strictest of classifications, defined as having a high potential for abuse and no “currently accepted medical use.”
Marijuana’s Schedule I status has stymied research and created a regulatory vacuum hindering full understanding of the potential benefits and harms of cannabis for medical uses. Studies that do receive federal approval have to utilize marijuana grown by University of Mississippi, the only federally approved cultivator. Researchers have long argued that the study drug does not accurately represent the potency and strains available to consumers in dispensaries.
Lamborn on Friday joined a growing chorus of conservatives calling for an end to the ban on research of medical marijuana.
Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz last April introduced bipartisan legislation that would transfer marijuana to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act.
Having marijuana on a lower rung would uphold the rights of states that have legalized the medical use of cannabis, allow for banking activities and create a clearer path for research, Gaetz said in an April interview with The Cannabist.
Gaetz followed up on his bill last September by sponsoring an amendment to the Consolidated Appropriations Act that wold provide protections for researchers of Schedule I substances in states that have legalized some form of medical marijuana.
“No one should be afraid to do research on medical cannabis,” Gaetz told The Cannabist in September.
Lamborn’s congressional district is home to multiple military installations and he is a high-ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee. His apparent change of heart on medical marijuana may be a move to better align himself with influential veterans groups that have called loudly on the federal government to loosen restrictions on research into medical marijuana.
Last May, The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans service organization demanded President Donald Trump reschedule marijuana to permit research into its medical efficacy in treating traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Legion ratcheted up pressure on the White House and Congress to support medical marijuana research last month at the National Press Club in Washingotn, D.C. In fulfilling the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ mission to make sure vets are taken care of, “we have to find replacements for the opioid epidemic we have in this nation,” Legion National Commander Denise Rohan said.
A Fall 2017 survey commissioned by the Legion found that 81 percent of veterans and 83 percent of caregivers support the federal legalization of cannabis to treat a physical or mental condition.