Before you ask, no… this isn’t another thread on federal legalization of recreational pot smoking or even medical marijuana in general. But the Senate does seem to be take a fresh and potentially favorable look at one aspect of marijuana as a drug which may mollify some of the harshest critics, and the idea is getting support from a very unexpected source. (Via Politico)

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have all begun speaking up about the need for more clinical research on the marijuana plant compound known as cannabidiol, or CBD. The three sit on the powerful Judiciary Committee, which has a key voice in setting the federal government’s firm stance on pot in all its different forms.

They sent a clear signal in a packed hearing room last week, when the senators took on the tricky issue of CBD, a compound derived from an illegal drug but which many scientists and public health officials believe could treat conditions including cancer, diabetes, chronic pain, and alcoholism. Some parents and doctors have already turned to CBD as an anti-seizure medicine for children who suffer from rare and extreme types of intractable epilepsy.

Feinstein being onboard is about as surprising as the sun rising in the east each morning, and I suppose you could see Grassley at least giving a look at CBD legalization. But Orrin Hatch? He was quick to remind everyone that he hadn’t suddenly packed his bags to move to a commune, saying that Utah was “certainly no redoubt of hippie liberalism,” but in March 2014 became the first of 15 states to legalize use of the CBD oil.

There are a few things to remember about CBD oil before we throw the baby out with the bong water here. And these are factors which are above and beyond the fact that there’s been some very promising testing taking place using this substance for people with serious ailments. First of all, it doesn’t get you high since it’s apparently completely separate from the tetrahydrocannabinol which is what delivers the buzz. That means the incentive for black market activity or people gaming the system to get their hands on it disappears. Second, it would remain a controlled substance anyway. (That’s no assurance of anything in a world filled with ambitious criminals, but at least it’s not showing up at Walmart.) And as Grassley pointed out when asked to comment, doctors already prescribe morphine, but that doesn’t mean that they’re telling their patients to go out and score some heroin or start growing poppies at home.

If nothing else, just to get the ball rolling on this single, non-intoxicating component of the plant for use in legitimate medical treatment, the Senate might be able to remove that federal vs state wall which complicates everything to do with drugs. It’s already a confusing situation when states approve medical or recreational marijuana use while the feds still handle it as a crime. People attempting to do CBD research can run into the same sorts of barriers. If all they manage to do is facilitate a bit more research on this front it would probably be better than nothing.