Republican Senator Orrin Hatch has served the state of Utah in Congress since 1977. In those 40 years, he's largely spoken out against marijuana reform. But that changes today as Hatch is planning to introduce a bill that will expand research by the federal government into medical marijuana.
In a statement from his office, Hatch says that anti-drug crusades have blinded people away from possible benefits of medical marijuana. He said, "In our zeal to enforce the law, we too often blind ourselves to the medicinal benefits of natural substances like cannabis." His office also stated that he plans to discuss how the medical benefits of marijuana could be used as an alternative to opioids.
In his planned speech, Hatch will say, "While I certainly do not support the use of marijuana for recreational purposes, the evidence shows that cannabis possesses medicinal properties that can truly change people’s lives for the better."
Hatch's bill, called the Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act of 2017, would give researchers' easier access to marijuana for studies about the drug's medical benefit. The bill is co-sponsored by two Democrats and two Republicans.
In a statement, Hatch also made a series of cannabis-related puns to announce the bill. After saying it was "high time" to address medical marijuana, he said, "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 the administrative barriers preventing legitimate research into medical marijuana, which is why I’ve decided to roll out the MEDS Act."
For the past few years, many have speculated whether or not Hatch would run for re-election in 2018. Hatch will be 84-years-old next November, and he's made conflicting statements about running again. Perhaps with less pressure to run for re-election on his shoulders, Hatch felt he had the ability to approach marijuana with an open mind.
Considering the vast majority of Americans support medical marijuana, it's surprising it's only the politicians, or more specifically Republicans, approaching retirement who seem to be approaching marijuana with an open-mind.