The U.S. Senate on Tuesday introduced an historic bill that would end the federal prohibition on medical marijuana.
Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) presented the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, which would reclassify marijuana and reduce the government’s ability to regulate the drug, increase research efforts, and allow VA physicians to legally prescribe the drug to veterans.
“Doctors and patients deserve federal laws that are fair and compassionate, and states should be able to set their own medical marijuana policies without federal interference,” said Sen. Booker at the bill’s unveiling. “Right now, our veterans are prohibited from getting the medical treatment they so desperately need to relieve their pain and suffering.”
Doctors at the VA currently are prohibited from prescribing medical marijuana to their patients. While 23 states currently permit medical marijuana, the VA is controlled by the federal government and those docs must abide by federal law regardless of where they practice. Should this bill pass, military veterans will be permitted to receive prescriptions for medical marijuana.
“The government shouldn’t prevent doctors from prescribing medicine that has been shown to work,” said Sen. Gillibrand.
The CARERS Act would reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug, which the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency defines as drugs with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” such as heroin or LSD, to the “less abuse potential” Schedule II classification like oxycodone or Ritalin.
The bill would also open new opportunities for medical research of marijuana, which traditionally has been one of the most regulated drugs in the research field. Since 1999, anyone conducting research on marijuana must also receive special registration from the DEA — a designation no other Schedule I drug research requires. The CARERS Act would remove that restriction.
Joining the senators at Tuesday’s ceremony were medical marijuana advocate Kate Hintz and her daughter Morgan, who suffers from severe Epilepsy. “As the mother of a child with a severe seizure disorder, anxiously waiting to get access to a medication that is already helping thousands of others is unbearable,” said Hintz.
Sen. Booker said that many businesses are also fearful of prosecution and noted that this bill would allow financial institutions to provide banking services to legitimate marijuana businesses, which currently generate over $1 billion in annual revenue and expected to grow significantly.