Utah's Sen. Orrin Hatch has fought for tougher drug laws, but now he's proposing a bill to make it easier to study medical marijuana. It is unclear whether the pot-related puns scattered throughout his announcement were intentional.
The past few decades have seen a dramatic shift in public opinion on marijuana use.
Once considered a menace to society, cannabis can now be legally prescribed for medical purposes in 29 states and D.C., but massive obstacles to studying its medicinal effects remain. Marijuana, despite having no fatal dose and no discernible negative impact on life expectancy, remains a Schedule 1 drug, regulated more heavily than crystal meth. As such, legal clinical studies are nearly impossible.
Even the senior senator from Utah, Republican Orrin Hatch — a right-wing extremist and Trump loyalist who voted for mandatory minimum drug sentences — has come to realize this situation is ridiculous. Hatch is the longest-serving member of the Senate, and has supported plenty of anti-drug bills. But now he is now introducing a bill, the Marijuana Effective Drug Study (MEDS) Act, with a bipartisan group of four cosponsors.
Amusingly, Hatch's announcement was laden with marijuana-related puns:
It's high time to address research into medical marijuana. Our country has experimented with a variety of state solutions without properly delving into the weeds on the effectiveness, safety, dosing, administration, and quality of medical marijuana. All the while, the federal government strains to enforce regulations that sometimes do more harm than good. To be blunt, we need to remove administrative barriers preventing legitimate research into medical marijuana, which is why I've decided to roll out the MEDS Act.
It is unclear whether Hatch included these cannabis puns on purpose or whether it was the work of a staffer, as Ted Cruz insists happened to him Tuesday. But either way, it is one of the most amusing introductions of a Senate bill in years.
Jokes aside, the mounting bipartisan support for marijuana reform is encouraging. Lawmakers who want to reconsider ham-handed and perversely prioritized drug policies are growing in number all the time, and that can only be a positive influence on our public policy.