U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Corey Booker (D-NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) reintroduced a bill Thursday that would end the federal prohibition of medical marijuana. Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) also signed on to the legislation as original co-sponsors.
The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (or CARERS) Act of 2017 would allow individuals and entities to possess, produce, and distribute medical marijuana if they are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. It would also open up avenues to medical marijuana research and allow physicians employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to veterans in states where it is legal. The bill also proposes excluding cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana, from the federal government’s definition of “marijuana.”
This is the second time the CARERS Act has been introduced. It was first introduced on March 10, 2015, during the 114th Congress.
In a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald released Wednesday, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senate and House members urged the Department of Veterans Affairs to allow VA doctors to write medical marijuana recommendations to veterans in accordance with state laws.
The letter comes four days before the expiration of a directive that prohibits VA doctors from recommending medical marijuana, even in states that have made it legal.
The Congressional members, led by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in the Senate and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dina Titus (D-NV), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) in the House, say the current policy “disincentivizes doctors and patients from being honest with each other,” noting, “It is not in the veterans’ best interest for the VA to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.”
“Congress has taken initial steps to alleviate this conflict in law and we will continue to work toward this goal,” the senators and representatives wrote. “However, you are in a position to make this change when the current VHA directive expires at the end of this month. We ask that you act to ensure that our veterans’ access to care is not compromised and that doctors and patients are allowed to have honest discussions about treatment options.”
The letter also highlights the “sea change in the legal framework surrounding marijuana in the United States” since the directive was issued in 2011. Comprehensive medical marijuana laws have been adopted in 23 states and Washington, D.C., and Congress has twice approved appropriations amendments intended to prevent the federal government from interfering with state medical marijuana programs.
Historic legislation was introduced earlier today in the United States Senate. Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced the introduction of the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act. This is the first time legislation that would make medical marijuana legal under federal law has been introduced in the Senate.
First and foremost, the bill would make production, distribution, and possession of marijuana for medical purposes that’s legal under state law legal under federal law. The bill would also remove barriers to scientific research, allow Veterans Administration physicians to recommend medical marijuana, allow interstate transportation of CBD oils, ensure medical marijuana dispensaries are taxed fairly, and allow all marijuana businesses — including adult-use stores in Colorado and elsewhere — to access the banking system and no longer be forced to operate on a cash-only basis.
There’s no reason your senators shouldn’t be co-sponsoring this bill. Please email their offices and ask them to sign on.