A bipartisan effort led by Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Don Young (R-Alaska), The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act was introduced to the House on Tuesday. CARERS is a companion bill to identical Senate legislation backed by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that was introduced earlier this month.
If passed as written, the legal landscape surrounding medical marijuana would undergo six important changes:
Patients, doctors and related businesses would no longer need to worry about federal prosecution for participating in their states’ program. Currently, the only thing stopping such prosecution under the Controlled Substance Act is the federal government’s asking federal prosecutors to essentially look the other way.
Marijuana would be reclassified from a Schedule I substance to a Schedule II, or less dangerous, substance. This alone doesn’t legalize marijuana, but it is a reversal of decades-old assertions that it has no medicinal value. Schedule I substances include LSD and heroin.
Veterans would have easier access to medical. As of this writing, the Department of Veterans Affairs forbids its doctors to assist their patients in getting medical marijuana, even if it’s legal in the patients’ states. The VA issued report in 2012 stating the approximately 30% of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). An independent study suggests that medical marijuana reduces PTSD symptoms by as much as 75%.
Marijuana research would be made easier. The government must sign off on marijuana studies after a Public Health Service Review. No Schedule I substance has ever made it through the review process. Some of proponents of medical marijuana believe that the only funding allowed is for research into negative effects and that the DEA obstructs research. CARERS would remove the obstructions, allowing for no fewer than three licensed growers in addition to the federal government. Currently, the government is the only grower with the OK to cultivate research-grade marijuana.
Lower-THC strains of marijuana (less than 0.3% THC) would be removed from the controlled substances list altogether. THC is the psychoactive substance that produces the “high”, whereas cannabidiol (CBD) is the ingredient with medical uses. There are many strains of marijuana with low THC and high CBD levels.
Banks would be protected from accusations of money laundering. Currently, banks won’t touch money from medical marijuana-related businesses due to this fear. This puts most of these businesses in the dangerous position of being cash-only, as well as making operations such as payroll more difficult.
The bottom line is that it’s high time to bring marijuana legislation into the 21st century. Multiple studies show the benefits of medical marijuana use. Evidence supports the assertion that alcohol is far more harmful with fewer practical applications. One need only look to Colorado to see how much of a moneymaker the medical marijuana business can be; the possibility of revenue, in the form of taxes, is undeniable. It seems to me that the government would be jumping at the chance to get a piece of that pie.
Historic Medical Marijuana Bill Gains Momentum – Matt Ferner