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Goodlatte Gets Praise for Shepherding Bill to Expand Marijuana Research

Virginia Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte is no fan of marijuana but he’s being applauded by the nation’s marijuana advocates.

Bob Goodlatte may be retiring but he’s going out with a bang. As the chair of the powerful Judiciary Committee he turned heads by ushering through the first ever bill to relax the federal constraints on testing marijuana.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R) 6th District
Credit Associated Press

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The legislation passed unanimously out of his committee, which Goodlatte intended by keeping it narrow in scope. “No matter where each of us fall on the issue of marijuana, this bill takes a reasonable and balanced approach toward ensuring marijuan can be studied by qualified researchers and institutions in a controlled manner to determine whether those substances have actual legitimate medical uses,” Goodlatte said.

Currently only the University of Mississippi is allowed to grow marijuana that can then be tested by groups with federal research grants. The new bill would force the attorney general to at least approve two other grow sites, though the Department of Justice could approve up to 25 new sites.

Goodlatte said he’s open to whatever is found.  “The science derived from this research could improve the lives of citizens and even save lives. We should not be afraid of science”

The legislation has gotten pushback because it prohibits people with past marijuana convictions from being a part of the research. Still, the bill’s author, Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, is hailing Goodlatte.   “Chairman Goodlatte has long been a skeptic of marijuana science but to his credit he’s not afraid of the science. He’s willing to give the industry the opportunity to demonstrate its efficacy," Gaetz said. "And I think that’s all we can ask.”

There’s no date scheduled for a vote on the bill in the whole House, but some Republicans are pushing party leaders to bring it up before the election in order to appeal the large part of the electorate who polls show overwhelmingly support marijuana.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

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