Comprehensive Medical Cannabis Legalization Bill Introduced to Congress
By Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) Introduce Bipartisan CARERS Act
Today, a comprehensive bipartisan medical marijuana legalization bill was introduced to Congress that would prevent federal law enforcement agencies from interfering in state medical marijuana laws. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act would recognize marijuana’s medical validity by rescheduling it from Schedule I (no accepted medical use and high potential for abuse) into Schedule II (some medical value and high potential for abuse). This would allow banks greater freedom to provide financial services to state-legal medical dispensaries, improve transportability of the drug, and open doors for scientific research. Currently, medical marijuana patients, dispensary owners and cultivators are still in violation of federal law, and could be subject to federal prosecution. This has remained an obstacle for many other states that would otherwise be considering similar policies.
“Whether patients have safe access to medicine is a public health issue, not a criminal justice one,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a law enforcement group opposed to the war on drugs. “If this bill passes many patients who could benefit from medical marijuana will no longer have to forego treatment for fear of arrest, be considered criminals for obtaining necessary medication, or put themselves in danger by accessing a dangerous unregulated market. We would never put underground drug dealers in charge of selling chemotherapy drugs or antidepressants, and we shouldn’t be putting them in control of marijuana either.”
If passed, the CARERS Act would adjust banking regulations so that financial institutions could provide banking services to marijuana businesses operating in accordance with state law. This has been a major obstacle, forcing dispensaries to operate as cash-only businesses, creating serious logistical problems and opening them up to all sorts of security concerns.
The bill would also remove a requirement that the Department of Health and Human Services do a public health service review before approving studies and end the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s current monopoly on marijuana research by allowing for at least three more research licenses to be granted. Overwhelming anecdotal evidence – and what little domestic research that has been approved – clearly support the medical efficacy of marijuana, but because research is rarely permitted for Schedule I substances, the scientific community has been unable to fully and accurately assess its effectiveness for specific conditions in controlled settings. If passed, the bill would also permit VA doctors to recommend marijuana to their patients who often suffer from combat related depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The State of Colorado recently awarded $2 million dollars to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies for research into the effects of marijuana use on veterans with PTSD.
Finally, it would allow states to import CBD products, which contain a powerful compound found in marijuana that reduces the incidence and severity of seizures in epileptic patients. Twelve states currently have laws allowing for some form of access to CBD, though these laws are not generally considered full “medical marijuana laws” because CBD as an extracted substance has fewer applications than medications using the whole plant. They remain attractive to some policymakers, however, because they exclude THC, a psychoactive but medically useful cannabinoid.
Last year, President Obama signed into law the federal “Cromnibus” spending bill, which includes a provision that prevents the Department of Justice from using its money to create barriers for medical marijuana laws and legally operating dispensaries in those states where it is legal. In addition to the dozen states that allow CBD use, twenty three states and the District of Columbia allow some degree of medical marijuana access, and many more state legislatures are considering such measures as well.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is committed to ending decades of failed policy that have fueled dangerous underground markets and gang violence, fostered corruption and racism, and largely ignored the public health crisis of addiction, all while spending more than a trillion dollars diverting the penal system’s attention away from more important violent crimes.