Utah Representatives: We don’t support recreational marijuana — but stigma shouldn‘t stall scientific research into its effects

From left, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, listens as Utah resident and Navajo Susie Philemon, bottom right, becomes emotional as she expresses her opposition to the proposed Bears Ears National Monument designation in southeast Utah, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Red tape, bureaucratic hurdles and arbitrary roadblocks are pervasive in Washington, D.C. These obstacles not only result in irritation and inconvenience, but also have the capacity to cause great harm to the health and happiness of those suffering from painful disorders and diseases.

Barriers to medical-grade marijuana research may be resulting in the preventable and unnecessary pain of countless Americans. Many have sought to address this by legalizing medical marijuana at the state level.

We are now living in the midst of glaring inconsistency between state and federal law. While the majority of states have legalized the medical application of marijuana or its components, federal law still says that it is illegal. The difference between state and federal law needs to be responsibly addressed.

It is with this difference in mind that we join with other members of Congress from around the country and on both sides of the aisle to introduce the Marijuana Effective Drug Studies Act (MEDS Act), which Sen. Orrin Hatch has introduced in the Senate.

Make no mistake, we are not advocating for the recreational use of marijuana, nor are we calling for sweeping change that could endanger people and empower criminals.

We are calling for the facilitation of learning. We are calling for a reasoned and responsible environment where the best minds may be able to analyze and examine something about which we know very little.

The MEDS Act will allow researchers to more easily engage the Drug Enforcement Agency when registering their research. The act also takes into account the naturally changing nature of science and discovery.

Doctors today who operate in the nebulous area of medically prescribed marijuana do so without a firm foundation. Without proper medical research and scientific freedom, doctors are left with more questions than answers regarding marijuana. Patients deserve to have these questions answered.

How might marijuana best be administered? How do you measure dosage? Can claims based on anecdotal experiences be replicated in a scientific setting? What are the side effects? Might this have any impact on child development?

We can responsibly answer the questions that linger through research. If the claims of the medical marijuana advocates prove to be true, this legislation can bring relief to countless people afflicted with chronic and debilitating illnesses.

We have a long history of medical research in America. We have a system today that protects consumers from the snake oil peddlers and miracle elixir salesman of the 19th century. The MEDS Act attempts to clear the way for marijuana to be evaluated in the modern and thorough way.

Anyone taking an honest and thorough look at the potential of medical marijuana must be able to see through the stigma attached to the plant.

To stand in the way of scientific and medical research merely because the idea of marijuana is uncomfortable is a disservice to scientific study and an insult to the infirm.

Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart, Mia Love and John Curtis, all Republicans, represent Utah in the U.S. House of Representatives.