In March of 2015, three United States senators introduced a federal bill which would have a dramatic impact on changing the way the federal government treats medical marijuana. The bill is called the CARERS act, which stands for the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act, and it was introduced by Rand Paul, Cory Booker, and Kristen Gillibrand.
There is broad bipartisan support for the CARERS Act, but the Act has not moved forward for senators to vote on the legislation. Huffington Post reports the CARERS Act has been stalled in the legislative process because Senators Chuck Grassley and Representative Joe Pitts are “using their power as committee chairs to prevent the bill from getting legislative hearings.” If these lawmakers would allow the bill to actually move through the normal legislative process, there are strong indicators suggesting it would pass and a dramatic shift would take place in the way the federal government treats medical marijuana use.
The CARERS Act Could Revolutionize Federal Drug Policy
CARERS is described as “the most comprehensive piece of medical cannabis legislation ever introduced in the U.S. Congress.” The Act would reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I controlled substance with no medicinal value to a Schedule II substance. Schedule II substances have a high potential for being abused, but do have medicinal value.
Changing the Schedule would make research into cannabis products much easier and would make it easier for medical dispensaries to receive financial services as long as the dispensaries were legal within the state.
Banking regulations would be adjusted by the bill so financial institutions would be able to provide services to legal businesses providing medical marijuana, many of which are now forced to operate as cash-only operations. The bill also removes requirements mandating a public health service review by the Department of Health and Human Services before studies are approved and it would allow for more research licenses to be granted, ending the monopoly on marijuana research which currently belongs to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
In addition to opening up the door to more research, the CARERS Act would also make it possible for many more patients to benefit from effective and affordable treatment with cannabis products. Doctors at the veteran’s administration would be able to prescribe cannabis products for depression and for PTSD and CBD products could be imported to more states to provide effective treatment for seizure disorders.
One of the most important changes made by the CARERS Act would be to allow states to effectively set their own policy on medical marijuana. Since California has established a regulatory framework over two decades, this would finally allow all of those in the medical marijuana industry in the state to feel confident they are safe from federal prosecution for behaviors that have long been legal in their own home state.
All of these benefits would allow patients to get much-needed access to health care and would reduce over-criminalization leading to mass incarceration. The CARERS act needs to move forward and should be given the chance to come up for a vote.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
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Report: Oregon Airport Allows Carry-On Cannabis, July 22, 2015, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog