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.
Legislation was introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday that would end marijuana prohibition at the federal level and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.
Bills filed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, leaving states to determine their own marijuana policies, and impose federal regulations on marijuana businesses in states that choose to regulate marijuana for adult use. Wyden’s bill would also enact a federal excise tax on marijuana products. In the House, the tax is being proposed in a separate bill introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).
Wyden and Blumenauer also filed marijuana policy “gap” bills that would eliminate many of the collateral consequences associated with federal marijuana convictions without removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.
An additional bill filed by Wyden with Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Michael Bennett (D-CO) would reform section 280E of the U.S. Tax Code to allow state-legal marijuana businesses to deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses from their federal taxes. A companion bill was filed in the House by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Rep. Blumenauer.
MPP Director of Federal Policies Robert Capecchi issued the following statement in a press release:
“This is commonsense legislation that will eliminate the growing tension between federal and state marijuana laws. Voters and legislatures are rolling back antiquated state marijuana prohibition policies, and it’s time for Congress to step up at the federal level. States are adopting laws designed to improve public safety by replacing the illegal marijuana market with a tightly regulated system of production and sales. The federal government should be working to facilitate that transition, not hinder it. It’s time for Congress to come to grips with the fact that marijuana is safer than alcohol, and most Americans think it should be treated that way.
“We commend Sen. Wyden and Reps. Polis and Blumenauer for proposing a sensible path forward. We hope their colleagues will take an objective look at the benefits of replacing prohibition with a system of regulation. There will surely be some members on the fence about this legislation, but consider it unthinkable that we would return to alcohol prohibition. They need to ask themselves why they are still clinging to the prohibition of a less harmful substance.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) introduced a bill Wednesday that would repeal all federal penalties for possessing and growing marijuana, allowing states to establish their own marijuana laws. The bill is available online at https://www.mpp.org/sandersbill.
The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015” strikes all references to marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act, but retains penalties for transporting marijuana from states or jurisdictions where it is legal to those where it is not. It is the fourth marijuana policy reform bill to ever be introduced in the Senate, and it is the first that proposes ending marijuana prohibition at the federal level.
Earlier this year, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY), and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced medical marijuana legislation, known as the CARERS Act. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced a bill to address the tax status of marijuana businesses, and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced a measure that would allow marijuana businesses to access banking services.
Last month, Sanders became the first-ever major-party presidential candidate to express support for legalizing and regulating marijuana for adult use.
Last night, the first Democratic Party national presidential debates took place, and as expected, the issue of marijuana policy was addressed. Bernie Sanders stood out by becoming the first mainstream, major party presidential candidate to publicly support regulating marijuana.
CNN has the video:
After hearing these responses, MPP has updated our Presidential Report Card and upgraded Bernie Sanders to "A", elevating him above Rand Paul to the head of the class. Hillary Clinton was also upgraded to "B" for her support of medical marijuana.
MPP is pleased to announce the release of our annual list of the “Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Consumers” in the United States!
President Barack Obama is at the top of the list, followed by several 2016 presidential candidates. At least eight (and as many as 17) of the 23 major-party presidential hopefuls have said or strongly indicated that they have consumed marijuana: Jeb Bush, Lincoln Chafee, Ted Cruz, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, and Rick Santorum.
Nine others do not appear to have said whether they have consumed marijuana, and they did not respond to inquiries from MPP: Joe Biden, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, Martin O’Malley, and Jim Webb. Only six candidates have said they never used marijuana: Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Donald Trump, and Scott Walker.
The list is intended to identify individuals who have used marijuana and achieved high levels of success or influence. It was created using the same criteria employed by Out Magazine to produce its "Power 50” list of LGBT Americans, such as “power to influence cultural and social attitudes, political clout, individual wealth, and a person’s media profile.” To qualify for MPP’s list, individuals must (1) be alive, (2) be a U.S. citizen, and (3) have consumed marijuana at least once in their life according to either their own account or that of a legitimate source. They do not need to currently consume marijuana or support marijuana policy reform.
MPP's Executive Director Rob Kampia recently published his thoughts on how marijuana policy will factor into the 2016 presidential elections:
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) recently released its quadrennial report card detailing the most prominent presidential candidates' positions on marijuana policy.
To be sure, most voters aren't single-issue marijuana voters (on either side of the legalization issue). Most voters make their decisions after processing a soup of positions and paid ads. So MPP's intent is to inform a piece of that upcoming decision-making process, rather than claiming that marijuana legalization is the main issue for many voters.
That said, it's worth noting that hardcore supporters of legalization are now finally capable of having a measurable impact on campaigns. For example, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) raised more than $100,000 at a marijuana-specific fundraising event in Portland on June 5. This is real money for a U.S. House race.
MPP's early donations to Peter Shumlin (D-VT) almost certainly made the difference in his first primary contest for governor in 2010. And during the 2011-2012 election cycle, MPP was the largest donor to his campaign, edging out donations from AFSCME, Coca-Cola, and the Democratic Governors Association.
As for the presidential race, many members of the marijuana industry -- which is generally defined as marijuana-related businesses that are operating legally under various states' laws -- are supporting Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). At a group fundraising meeting at the National Cannabis Industry Association's annual conference in Denver on June 30, a room of canna-business leaders discussed the issue with Sen. Paul and donated more than $100,000 to his campaign. (This is real money for any presidential campaign.) MPP had previously donated $15,000 to Sen. Paul's three campaign committees.
Setting aside the ability of the cannabis industry to have some degree of impact on the current presidential race, what are the positions of some of the more interesting candidates?
Last Friday, MPP released the 2016 Presidential Candidates Report Card, which grades the various major candidates based on their support for marijuana policy reform or the willingness to allow it to move forward. Since then, a wide variety of news outlets have written about it, including The New York Times, Huffington Post, Washington Times, and others. In particular, there was quite a bit of interest in Republican Sen. Rand Paul receiving the highest grade of any candidate: A-.
The Washington Times reports:
Mr. Paul, received a grade of “A-” from the Marijuana Policy Project. The group said his grade was based largely on his sponsorship of a medical marijuana bill, support for reducing marijuana-related penalties and support for allowing states to regulate marijuana for adult use.
Mr. Christie and Mr. Santorum, meanwhile, two other GOP contenders, both received a grade of “F” “because they oppose reform efforts and they are the most vocal supporters of enforcing federal prohibition laws in states that have made marijuana legal,” the group said.
“Some of these guys who tout states’ rights, fiscal responsibility, and getting the government out of people’s private lives want to use federal tax dollars to punish adults for using marijuana in states that have made it legal,” said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the group. “They say using marijuana is immoral or just too dangerous to allow, but serve alcohol, a more dangerous substance, at their fundraisers. The hypocrisy is astonishing.”
Not surprisingly, Sen. Paul has gotten a lot of attention this week by being the first presidential candidate to actively court the marijuana industry for campaign donations.
U.S. Senate Committee Votes to Prohibit Justice Department From Interfering in State Medical Marijuana Laws
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved a measure 20-10 on Thursday that is intended to prevent the federal government from interfering in state medical marijuana laws.
The amendment, offered by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to the Senate version of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, prohibits the Justice Department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state laws that allow the cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana for medical purposes. It mirrors the amendment sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) that was approved last week in the House of Representatives. Passage of identical amendments in the House and Senate typically indicates it will be included in the final spending bill Congress sends to President Obama.
This was the first time the amendment had been offered in the Senate. The House has passed it in each of the last two years, and it was codified in the so-called “CRomnibus” funding measure that became law last year. The amendment is similar to the operative provisions of the CARERS Act, introduced in March by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY).
This is the second time in as many months that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a marijuana policy reform measure. On May 21, the committee voted to allow doctors within the Veterans Affairs system to formally recommend medical marijuana to veterans.
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.
On Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul proposed an amendment that would keep the federal government from prosecuting medical marijuana patients and physicians as well as interfering with states that implement medical marijuana laws, Huffington Post reports. The amendment was added to a jobs bill currently being heard on the Senate floor. Senator Paul’s communication director, Brian Darling, explained the senator’s move. "What we're trying to do is look at the law and allow states that have changed their laws and have allowed medical marijuana to do so, for doctors to be able to prescribe and for people to be able to get those prescriptions without being worried about the federal government coming in and arresting them."
Senator Paul has proposed similar legislation in the past, such as an amendment that would restrict the DEA and federal prosecutors from pursuing medical marijuana users and distributors that are in compliance with state law. "The effort before was to defund prosecutions -- so it would block the federal government from prosecuting until that appropriations bill runs out about a year later." Said Darling. The Senate is unlikely to vote on Senator Paul’s amendment due to gridlock, but Paul’s office has made it clear they are prepared to pursue similar legislation in the future.