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Marijuana advocates aren’t laughing at Sen. Orrin Hatch’s pot puns

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch issued a pun-laden statement Wednesday announcing legislation that would remove hurdles for medical marijuana research, but legalization activists aren’t laughing.

“It’s high time to address research into medical marijuana,” said Hatch, a conservative Republican. “To be blunt, we need to remove the administrative barriers preventing legitimate research into medical marijuana, which is why I’ve decided to roll out the MEDS Act.”

Hatch’s bill, the Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act of 2017, would allow researchers easier access to pot and FDA-approved marijuana derivatives. Marijuana advocates in Utah, which has a strict law that prohibits all cannabis-related products except oil for severe epilepsy, are working on a ballot initiative for 2018 that would expand medical marijuana access in the state. Hatch continued his word play while clarifying that he still opposes recreational marijuana and the “budding entrepreneurs” the industry has produced.

Hatch also said during his monologue that easing research regulations could potentially save the lives of people with epilepsy, cancer, and other serious medical conditions.

Morgan Fox, spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project, said the farce Hatch made of the legislation probably stemmed from the senator’s unfamiliarity with marijuana policies.

“I think that making light of it is really is somewhat irresponsible considering the number of lives that medical marijuana impacts,” Fox said. “There is serious harm that can happen from the federal government interfering with these state programs — that’s definitely bad — but I don’t think it’ll necessary detract from the statement overall.”

Fox believes that bills like Hatch’s that focus on scientific research are half measures, since they don’t directly affect patients or those providing the medication.

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said Hatch’s respectability in the Senate bolsters the seriousness of the bill by normalizing the topic among lawmakers. Even so, he said Congress has yet to send a uniform message around marijuana legalization.

“On the one hand they say this is a substance we need to place in the same category as heroin,” Armento said. “On the other hand, they can’t help themselves without making third grade puns in this statement: is this funny wink wink, nod nod or is this serious?”

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Top Republican senator introduces a medical marijuana research bill, says it’s ‘high time’ to address in pun-filled statement

Senator Orrin Hatch introduced a bipartisan bill Wednesday to facilitate medical marijuana research in an especially pun-filled manner.

“It’s high time to address research into medical marijuana,” the Utah Republican said in a statement. “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.”

Hatch’s statement continues (emphasis ours):

“All the while, the federal government strains to enforce regulations that sometimes do more harm than good. To be blunt, we need to remove the administrative barriers preventing legitimate research into medical marijuana, which is why I’ve decided to roll out the MEDS Act.”

Hatch added that he hopes the bipartisan initiative can be a “kumbaya moment” for both parties.

The bill, dubbed the Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act of 2017 or MEDS Act, is cosponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). It’s designed to improve the process for conducting research on medical marijuana and would direct the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to develop best practices for growing medical-grade cannabis.

Hatch took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to defend the bill, saying we ” too often blind ourselves to the medicinal benefits of natural substances like cannabis,” in our “zeal” to enforce the law. He said he is still opposed to the recreational use of marijuana however.

Marijuana, both medicinal and recreational, is considered an illegal Schedule 1 drug by the federal government. 29 states, however, have legalized some form of medical marijuana and allow doctors to prescribe the drug to patients.

While President Donald Trump indicated he was “100%” in support of medical marijuana on the campaign trail, his attorney general, Jeff Session, a noted marijuana opponent, has hinted at a crackdown on state-legal marijuana businesses, both medicinal and recreational.

Accessing quality samples of marijuana has been an ongoing challenge for scientists and doctors who want to study the plant because of its federal status.

The Drug Enforcement Administration — which dictates the legal status of controlled substances — announced last year that it planned to increase the supply of medical marijuana available to researchers, potentially paving the way for the Food and Drug Administration to approve a non-synthetic marijuana-based drug.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, an 83-year old conservative from Utah, has all the weed puns.