A group of eight United States senators today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) requesting information about the agencies' efforts to facilitate and coordinate scientific research on medical marijuana. The letter was signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.),Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

The senators explained that while twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have now passed laws allowing for medical marijuana use, and an additional fifteen states allow access to cannabadiol (CBD), there are still barriers to research on the potential health benefits of marijuana. The letter highlights the unique opportunity and important role federal agencies have to collaborate with states to conduct population-based, clinical, and other basic research on marijuana.

"With the patient pool of medical marijuana users growing in the United States, we believe that federal agencies have both an opportunity and a responsibility to craft a sensible research and public health strategy that allows us to generate meaningful data and conclusions from this ongoing natural experiment," the senators wrote in the letter. They continued, "It is important that we make a concerted effort to understand how this drug works and how it can best serve patients through appropriate methods of use and doses, like any other prescribed medicine."

The senators applauded HHS's recent decision to "eliminate the burdensome and unnecessary Public Health Service board" that slowed the research process, but noted that there are "additional barriers that still stand in the way of researchers who wish to study the potential health benefits of medical marijuana in well-controlled studies." The letter asks HHS, ONDCP, and the DEA about their specific plans to facilitate research around the potential health benefits of medical marijuana, including by removing regulatory barriers faced by researchers and improving access to marijuana for research purposes. It also inquires about ongoing inter-agency cooperation, communication between the federal government and the states, and existing data collection efforts.

A PDF copy of the letter is available here.