A new Senate medical marijuana bill called the the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act was proposed Tuesday; it promises to change the way the federal government classifies and treats the use of medical marijuana.
Three Senators, Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced the bill. It wouldn’t make pot legal across America, but it would effectively clear the smokey air around the use of medical marijuana at the federal level.
Sen. Gillibrand told a press conference that the CARERS Act “would recognize that marijuana has accepted medical uses, and would recognize the will of voters in 23 states that have decided that denying families access is wrong.”
Gillibrand continued: “The bipartisan bill would finally allow patients and families, including veterans, in those 23 states to access medical care without fear of prosecution.”
“Almost half the states have legalized marijuana for medical use; it’s long past time to end the federal ban,” said Michael Collins, Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance.
The bill would also change marijuana’s classification under the Controlled Substances Act. Pot is currently a Schedule I narcotic — alongside heroin, LSD and MDMA and other drugs that supposedly have ” no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” according to the DEA’s classification system.
Instead, marijuana would sit alongside Adderall, Ritalin, oxycodone and (surprisingly) cocaine as a Schedule II drug. This reclassification would allow a wider use of research opportunities, making it easier to obtain licenses to study marijuana.
“It’ll make it much easier to dispense, but it’s also for research,” said Sen. Paul during the press conference. Paul is a libertarian-leaning Republican running for president. He stood surrounded by supporters of the bill who benefit from the medicinal uses of marijuana, including a young child, Morgan Hintz who uses one of the compounds in marijuana, CBD, to treat epilepsy and seizure.
“I don’t think anybody up here is against traditional medicine,” Paul said. “We actually can’t do the adequate studies to give them information whether its a good treatment or a bad treatment because we make it illegal for even research.”
Morgan’s mother, Kate Hintz supported the bill with enthusiasm and explained why the federal classification of the bill is such a problem.
“After persistent advocacy in my home state of New York, we finally saw a medical marijuana law passed last summer. Yet individual state’s laws, including New York’s, will not succeed until we lift the current federal restrictions surrounding this plant.
In addition, the bill would make it easier for “marijuana-related legitimate businesses” to conduct their banking as any other legitimate business would. And that would also increase safety for medical marijuana dispensaries, which are frequently robbed due to their large amounts of cash on hand.
The CARERS Act would also make it easier to transport marijuana between states, and give doctors working at the Department of Veteran Affairs the ability to to prescribe medical marijuana in states where it is legal.
Of course, the bill still has a long road ahead of it in both the House and the Senate. But its supporters are willing to do the work.
“We’re going to approach all our colleagues,” Gillibrand said during the press conference. “This is the first step of a long process of advocacy.”