A Senate bill to legalize medical marijuana at the federal level is expected to be introduced on Tuesday by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). This bill is reportedly the first time that the Senate would contemplate legalizing medical marijuana.
“It really is a comprehensive bill- it would effectively end the federal war on medical marijuana,” said Tom Angell, the chairman of marijuana advocacy organization Marijuana Majority.
The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act proposes substantial changes to federal medical marijuana law. The CARERS Act would reclassify marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug to a Schedule 2 drug, which would compel the federal government to acknowledge that marijuana has potential medical benefits. The bill would also omit the non-psychoactive medicinal compound of marijuana, CBD, from the definition of marijuana.
A Senate aide told Vox that this bill would prohibit the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and other agencies from overruling medical marijuana laws that have been enacted by states. According to Vox, the bill would also call upon the attorney general to provide at least three licenses to FDA-approved research agencies for marijuana research, and would further ease marijuana research restrictions by removing the Public Health Service review currently required for independent researchers conducting medical marijuana studies.
Matt Simon, the New England Political Director and Legislative Analyst of the Marijuana Policy Project, told BenSwann.com that “It’s refreshing to see this bipartisan group of senators working together on a bill that could bring great relief to countless patients and their families. Medical marijuana is already legal in the District of Columbia and in 23 states, and there’s no good reason it shouldn’t be legal everywhere else.”
The bill has been criticized by the University of Florida Drug Policy Institute’s director, Dr. Kevin Sabel. “It’s like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut,” said Sabel, according to the Washington Post. “Why not start work with scientists to incentivize research rather than open the floodgates to Big Marijuana? Most major medical organizations oppose smoked pot as medicine because the risks outweigh any benefits. This bill just isn’t supported by the science, plain and simple.”
The comprehensive CARERS Act is not the first time Senators Booker and Paul have joined together to push for reform. Last July the two senators introduced a criminal justice reform bill called the REDEEM Act. The REDEEM Act proposed expunging the criminal records of low-level and non-violent offenders and minors, and encouraged states to raise the criminal responsibility age to over 18. The bill was re-introduced on Monday.
A press conference is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday to discuss the proposed CARERS Act.