Somewhere in between his meeting with Kim Kardashian to discuss prison reform and his Tweets about Roseanne Barr, President Trump signed a bill earlier this week giving terminally ill patients the freedom to use experimental medications that have not been met with FDA approval. It is called the “Right to Try,” a measure that the President himself claims will save “hundreds of thousands” of lives.
But news has spread in recent weeks suggesting that the new law would effectively legalize medical marijuana in all 50 states for people on their deathbeds. It turns out that this concept, which seems to have originated from a handful of story-starved cannabis journalists, is more speculative than anything. Sadly, the fact-checking website Snopes found there is nothing written in the language of the Right to Try legislation that even comes close to legalizing medical marijuana for terminally ill patients. The new law only makes it possible for qualified patients to get permission to use the herb.
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“The claim as presented is false; the act itself was unrelated to medical marijuana, and solely pertained to those diagnosed with terminal illnesses,” reads a clarification. “Even under the most flexible interpretations, there was no truth to the statement that President Donald Trump was signing a law legalizing medical marijuana at a federal level.”
It is still possible that terminally ill patients could gain access to medical marijuana under Right to Try. But even though the herb technically qualifies as an “experimental medication” under the new law, this does not mean it will be any easier for patients to secure. The law gives terminally ill patients the right to seek drug treatments that are in clinical trials and “have passed Phase 1 of the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process,” according to CNN. Although medical marijuana technically falls into this category, the vagueness of Right to Try’s qualified conditions provides no clue as to what the federal government considers a terminal illness.
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What is clear is that the new national law, which, according to the New York Times, has be oversold by President Trump, gives patients and doctors the right to petition drug companies for the use of experimental medications. But it remains to be seen whether medical marijuana businesses will be considered “drug companies.” Considering that growing and selling weed in the United States is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government, these types of operations might not fit in with the Right to Try.
At best, the new law will have very little impact, especially where medical marijuana is concerned. Nearly 40 states already have Right to Try laws on the books. What’s more is the FDA has had a “compassionate use, or expanded access” program in place for decades designed to provide terminally ill patients with experimental medications. The agency says it approves more that 80 percent of these applications.