DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: When I first opened the D.C. office for Americans for Safe Access (ASA) in 2006, to bring representation of medical marijuana patients to our nation’s capitol, I was told by many it was not worth the effort. A quick skim of the political landscape back then showed we would be facing a steep slope. Sure, twelve states had passed medical marijuana laws and 80% of Americans supported medical cannabis access, but the federal government refused to admit that medical cannabis patients existed. The talking points from federal agencies were always “there is no such thing as medical marijuana,” and most members of Congress were paralyzed by fears of backlash or were dug into to refer madness.
Flash forward 9 years…(and $500,000, 000 dollars of anti-medical cannabis federal enforcement later) and for the first time, we have comprehensive medical marijuana legislation in both the U.S. House and Senate. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act (CARERS) Act of 2015 is the most comprehensive piece of federal medical marijuana legislation ever introduced in the U.S. Congress. The bipartisan act is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and, in the House of Representatives, by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK).
This important bill would remedy the state-federal conflict over medical marijuana law, with far-reaching impacts, including:
- Allowing state programs to continue without federal interference
- Moving marijuana out of the Schedule I list
- Removing CBD from the scheduling
- Creating access to banking services for legal marijuana businesses
- Ending the DEA-Imposed NIDA monopoly that blocks research
- Allowing Veterans Affairs doctors to write recommendations in states that have a medical marijuana program.