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Medical marijuana research bill passes in both chambers of Congress

The Senate unanimously approved a bill allowing medical marijuana research to expand on Wednesday. The bill is the first marijuana-related bill to be approved by both chambers of Congress, as the House unanimously passed the bill in July, Politico reports. 

The unanimous votes in both chambers underscore the shift in sentiments about cannabis as the substance becomes increasingly mainstream. A recent Gallup poll found that support for marijuana legalization has maintained a record high of 68 percent since last year. In terms of partisan support, 83 percent of Democrats support legalization. In contrast, Republicans remain split, with 50 percent supporting legislation. 

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), will make it easier for scientists to research medical marijuana. It will also protect doctors who discuss medical cannabis with their patients. Marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which denotes a high risk for addiction and a lack of medical benefits. While many states have legalized recreational and medical use on a local level, federal law has restricted the bounds of research into the substance's medical potential. Blumenauer told Politico that after decades of working on cannabis reform, "finally the dam is starting to break." 

The bill will proceed to the desk of President Biden, who recently pardoned thousands of people convicted of low-level marijuana-related offenses. Biden also instructed the Department of Health and Human Services to review available research on marijuana.