Image Credits: AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Senator Orrin Hatch, a Mormon conservative Republican representing Utah recently announced his support for medical marijuana. Senator Hatch just introduced the Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act, or MEDS Act, to improve research on the medical benefits of marijuana. If passed, the bill would remove regulations that both prevent high quality research from being conducted on medical marijuana. The bill would also make marijuana more easily available for research as well as production of any FDA-approved drugs derived from marijuana.

During his speech on the Senate floor, Senator Hatch noted the regulations on medical marijuana research “significantly delay the production of potentially life changing medications.” He emphasized that medical marijuana has the potential to help Americans suffering from a wide range of chronic medical conditions such as cancer, severe epilepsy, and post traumatic stress disorder. When it comes to recreational marijuana, on the other hand, Senator Hatch asserted that he is strongly opposed to it. The senator does not want to increase accessibility to marijuana for recreational purposes. Thus, Senator Hatch’s bill would also include provisions aimed at preventing medical marijuana from being abused.

So far, the bill has been cosponsored by Senators from both sides of the aisle. Support includes Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI). These Republican Senators aren’t the only Republican politicians in favor of medical marijuana. During the summer of 2016, Governor John Kasich signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana in Ohio. Last February, Representative Garrett Thomas (R-VA) introduced a bill to fully end federal marijuana prohibition. Last June, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced a bill to protect medical marijuana users who follow their state’s laws from being federally prosecuted. Currently in the Indiana General Assembly, a Republican lawmaker is pushing to legalize medical marijuana. These are just a few examples of Republicans starting to push for medical marijuana and in some cases, recreational marijuana.

The growth in support for medical marijuana from Republican politicians does not come as a surprise. According to a 2010 study by Pew Research Center, 61% of Republicans favor legalizing medical marijuana in their state. When it comes to recreational marijuana, support among Republicans isn’t as high, but it’s growing. According to a poll by the General Social Survey, in 2016, 40 percent of Republicans supported legalizing marijuana. This is a jump from just 12 percent in 1990.

While it doesn’t look like we’ll see marijuana become fully legalized anytime in the near future, we are certainly seeing steps towards it.