Federal Agency Loosens Marijuana Grant Funding Restrictions For Mental Health Treatment
Despite growing acceptance within American society, psychedelics like cannabis still carry a stigma that goes beyond the social.
These substances are still prohibited or regulated heavily in a number of states. Hence, various state policies still criminalize the use, sale, procurement, and distribution of cannabis and other related psychedelic substances.
For years, many groups have lobbied for the decriminalization of cannabis usage and distribution. The lobbying has also engendered a clamor for the reduction of restrictions still in place.
Early in August 2021, funding restrictions were eased as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association announced its new policy on grants.
The new policy loosens grant restrictions on healthcare professionals and institutions that recommend and provide cannabis as medication for the treatment of mental health conditions.
Read on to learn more about the latest on this development in cannabis legislation.
In the middle of June 2021, Pennsylvania recognized the federal government’s policy to withhold grant funding from institutions that provide access to medical cannabis.
The federal agency that set in motion the policy was the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association or SAMHSA.
According to the federal policy announced last June 2021, federal grant funds cannot be allocated for cannabis procurement.
In other words, healthcare professionals or institutions receiving grants cannot use any of the grant money to acquire their supply of medicinal cannabis.
This is regardless of the purpose, even if the intention is for the treatment of mental health conditions.
The stringent policy on marijuana-related grant funding has created some anxiety amongst beneficiaries. To the grant beneficiaries, the prohibition foreshadows one event — the jeopardization of funding for healthcare.
The resulting anxiety has led to consistent lobbying in areas beyond Pennsylvania, but also other pro-cannabis places like:
- Easthampton, Massachusetts
- Grand Rapids, Michigan
- Arcata, California
- New York
- Oakland, California
On the Loosening of Federal Grant Funding Restrictions SAMHSA Announced –
The loosening of restrictions announced by the SAMHSA came two months after the initial announcement of the said restrictions.
According to the SAMHSA, institutions offering medicinal cannabis for mental health treatment will still be eligible for federal grants. Needless to say, various health institutions welcome the less-radical verbiage of the SAMHSA.
Be that as it may, the SAMHSA still seems adamant in its faithfulness to the policy’s original spirit.
In other words, despite its more permissive stance towards grants, the SAMHSA maintains that institutions still cannot use grants to purchase medicinal cannabis for their patients.
While welcome news to some, the permissiveness of restrictions was viewed by others to be a “difference with no real distinction”.
More specifically, with the rules on grant allocation in place, it seemed as though the SAMHSA simply reworded its stance on the issue, presenting it to be more permissive.
Indeed, the SAMHSA announced a loosening of restrictions. However, such loosening is deemed futile. The uselessness of the said easing is highlighted by many, especially with the existing rules on where money should go.
The existing justification of the SAMHSA is that government funds provided as grants cannot be spent on substances that are deemed illegal federally.
Nonetheless, the new policy is now in effect at the time of writing, much to the chagrin of pro-cannabis healthcare professionals and advocates.
What SAMHSA Deleted from the Original Policy
The restrictions were broader in the June 2021 policy on grants. The original SAMHSA policy on grant funds consisted of two areas of restriction.
The first involved the usage of grant funds. More specifically, this half of the grant restriction policy prohibited healthcare professionals or institutions from doing the following with the grant money:
- Purchasing cannabis
- Acquiring cannabis
- Prescribing cannabis
- Distributing or dispensing cannabis
Adding to these existing sets of restrictions is the prohibition on the above-mentioned even in the absence of grant money allocation.
In other words, institutions can be removed from the grant list by performing any of the above even if no SAMHSA grant money was spent.
On August 2, Pennsylvania received a notice from SAMHSA in the form of a memo. The memo stated the new iteration of the SAMHSA grant policy.
According to the new policy, “the second half is no longer in effect”.
This means that institutions would be free within the statutes of state and federal laws to distribute, acquire, prescribe, and manufacture medicinal cannabis. However, the first half of the restriction (the one prohibiting the use of grant monies) remains in effect.
During the press release, the SAMHSA laid bare its intentions behind its loosening of grant restrictions.
Despite its adamant retention of certain policies, the federal agency attributed its recent actions to two aims.
The priority of the SAMHSA is being involved with the behavioral health workforce. Prior to consolidating its stance on the allocation of grants, the SAMHSA announced its desire to expand the behavioral health workforce.
The SAMHSA has long recognized the staffing deficiencies in mental health institutions, offering grants as a form of help.
The other priority is to promote opportunities for patients to seek treatment. According to the SAMHSA, the grants can facilitate the creation and implementation of programs geared towards mental health and substance abuse.
For this reason, while sanctions have been eased on grants, the SAMHSA maintains its imposition of how the money should be used.
The SAMHSA’s Easing of Marijuana-Related Grant Funding Restrictions in Summary
The SAMHSA has announced where grant money can go and where it should not.
The SAMHSA has been very consistent in maintaining its anti-cannabis stance when it comes to how institutions should use the grant.
Nonetheless, beyond this, institutions have free reign over how they can administer medicinal cannabis to patients suffering from mental health conditions.