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Proposed Medical Marijuana bill would benefit Region

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Proposed federal legislation could make medical marijuana research easier in the future, and that could have a significant impact in Northwest Missouri.

The bill would provide a means for researchers to receive federal funding and guarantee access to medical marijuana products for qualified researchers.

It would be one more step toward the university being able to do its own research, said Jay Johnson, associate provost at Northwest Missouri State University.

“(If) this legislation passes and we’re able to see more research in the state, I would like to believe that Northwest would be one of the schools doing some of the research,” he said.

“It is definitely needed, as we have these grow facilities distribution in our region. As far as what the impact that would be on other schools in the nation, I’m not exactly sure because each state’s handling it differently.”

“Northwest has a non-credit cannabis studies program, but it’s online-based and Johnson says they can’t grow actual marijuana because it isn’t decriminalized at the federal level.

“The more access, the more availability of the product,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot more need for what we’re providing, in terms of educating people about the product itself ... There’s still a lot of things people have to learn. Now, this research bill that’s coming in is going to be very important because we really need to know what this can do, rather than what we think it can do.”

The proposed bill passed the House of Representatives in April and is going through the process to reach a vote in the Senate.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R- Mo., said it’s a very important topic and medical research should have stringent guidelines.

“It needs to be carefully, carefully monitored and regulated to make sure that it’s used only for medical purposes, and only within the strict confines of what the law allows,” he said. “I’ll just tell you, I’m not a great fan of marijuana use ... We do actually have a lot of decades of data on marijuana use.”

If passed, the bill wouldn’t directly affect federal decriminalization, but it would allow more insight into how best to utilize cannabis, said Edwin Taylor, a political science professor at Missouri Western State University.

“If we can better understand the medical benefits, we can better understand whether or not it should be decriminalized, at least for medical purposes, right?” he said. “Which is a very different thing than decriminalizing it for recreational purposes.”

If passed, the Department of Health and Human Services will have an additional three months to outline guidance for State-authorized marijuana programs.

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