Trump Signs A Bill That Legalizes MMJ For Terminally Ill, Now What For Cannabis?
President Trump is set to sign a bill, called the “Right To Try”, which would legalize medications that may be life-saving for terminally ill patients even if they haven’t completed the FDA approval process.
Once signed, patients with potentially life-threatening diseases will be allowed to try medical cannabis even if it hasn’t been FDA-approved but are already undergoing the approval process and have passed the initial phase of clinical studies. The Right To Try bill was unanimously passed by the Senate last summer, then by the House of Representatives last Tuesday with a vote of 250 to 169.
Although the bill’s provisions are aimed at several kinds of medications, it looks as though it would apply to medical cannabis due to the fact that clinical trials are already being performed by the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Sciences (MAPS). The MAPS studies are in the second phase of the FDA approval process, and is testing the efficacy of cannabis when smoked for veterans suffering from PTSD. It also already meets all the other criteria which is defined by the Right To Try bill.
Most states already have some form of the Right To Try bill, except New York. Utah recently passed legislation that addresses the right of terminally ill patients to try medical cannabis. But due to cannabis being a federally illegal drug, terminally ill patients with the Right To Try are still risking violating federal law. But since the Congress recently passed the Right To Try bill, terminally ill patients no longer have to worry about the legal consequences of using cannabis.
Psilocybin and MDMA may also be on the list for patients to try, since both substances have undergone FDA trials and meet the requirements set out by the bill.
However, there is still a gray area in what exactly is defined as a life-threatening condition. PTSD could be considered life-threatening when you look at the rates of suicide among patients with this debilitating mental condition, although it could still be debated. The details of these, as well as others, will likely be defined and vary according to each state’s own legislations in jurisdictions that already have some form of the Right To Try bill. Jurisdictions can define their own requirements, considering that the full title of the bill says, “In accordance with State law…”
But in states that don’t have these provisions in place, the new bill may result in vague interpretation and may even lead to a conflict with current drug laws. The federal bill uses broad wording, and doesn’t specify certain illnesses. They only talk about the “eligible patient” which is defined as, “Diseases or conditions where the likelihood of death is high unless the course of the disease is interrupted; and Diseases or conditions with potentially fatal outcomes, where the endpoint of clinical trial analysis is survival.” To be considered eligible, patients should have already exhausted other forms of treatment and should no longer be able to participate in trials that investigate the drug they need access to. Patients would also need to supply consent written out by a qualified physician who has been proven not to gain anything from the trials.
The Right To Try bill was passed on Tuesday, despite resistance from Democrats who think that the law would destabilize the FDA processes.
The POTUS is expected to sign the bill over the next few days since he himself lobbied Congress in order to pass the bill. Last January, Trump discussed the bill during his State of the Union Address, where he said: “People who are terminally ill should not have to go from country to country to seek a cure. I want to give them a chance right here at home. It is time for the Congress to give these wonderful, incredible Americans the right to try.”
According to a CNN article, Starlee Coleman, a senior policy adviser at the Goldwater Institute, said that “This is really a law for people who are very sick, who have exhausted all treatment options and who cannot enroll in a clinical trial.”
What is next?
Currently, there are over 40 pieces of cannabis legalization in the House and Senate. Both parties feel they have the votes to pass substanial change except for the fact that Pete Sessions, R – Texas, has blocked all cannabis regulation and laws from getting to the floor of Congress for a vote. This year may be different though, since some of the cannabis legislation is tied to VA rigths and VA funding, a tricky area for Sessions, who is from Texas and up for midterm elections this year. In order to kill these new bills, he would be hurting veterans and his base voters….stay tuned!