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CARERS ACT would Protect Legal Medical Marijuana

carers act marijuana legislation

Medical cannabis is more popular than Tom Hiddleston on a singles cruise. It’s more widely accepted than Tom Hanks and more profitable than Tom Cruise. Legal marijuana has reached more Americans than Tom Sawyer and brought more smiles than Tommy Chong.

With seemingly every Tom, Dick, and Sally in favor of ending federal prohibition against medical marijuana, many of us have been anxiously waiting for the day our elected officials decide to catch up.

Well, that day may be coming. In a bid to push back against AG Jeff Sessions recent memo to congress – and catch up with 21st century voters – a bipartisan group of Senators has come together to introduce the CARERS Act (Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act).

And, after looking at the proposed legislation, this could be great news for medical marijuana patients and the entire cannabis industry.

Why Do We Need the CARERS Act?

For the past few years, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment has prevented the Justice Department from using federal resources to pursue criminal charges against medical marijuana users and businesses operating in line with state laws.

The amendment has been included as a rider in budget bills and has seen a recent influx of bipartisan support. But, until medical cannabis is protected in its own piece of legislation, the rider is just a stop-gap. Patients are protected, but only for a time (the amendment must be renewed in September) and only to a certain extent. And – despite the fact that 29 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam have all legalized medical marijuana – federal prohibition still technically trumps state law.

According to Democratic Sen. Cory Booker – one of the six senators sponsoring the legislation – the CARERS Act would address many of the flaws that stem from current federal prohibition: “Again, this makes no sense in science, makes no sense in compassion, makes no sense in terms of law, it makes no sense frankly in terms of economics.”

What Would the CARERS Act Do?

The CARERS Act would do more than make the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment its own bill. Many of the steps marijuana advocates have been clamoring for are included in the proposed legislation.

1) State medical marijuana laws would supersede federal prohibition.

This wouldn’t include recreational marijuana initially, but that could be a good thing in the short term. Congress is notoriously slow-moving and, despite recreational pot’s popularity, it pales in comparison to the overwhelming support for medical cannabis in the U.S.

By focusing on medical marijuana first, there is a much greater chance the legislation will make it to the floor and come to a vote.

But, that’s just a starting point.

2) Allow for easier and more extensive study of cannabis

Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug (for reference, OxyContin is Schedule II). As such, cannabis research requires approval by a review board at the Department of Health and Human Services. This is a significant hurdle for private groups, universities, and research hospitals that wish to study the potential benefits and any harmful effects of marijuana use.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul notes, “I think we shouldn’t restrict research into any drugs looking for a potential health benefit.”

3) Doctors at Veterans Affairs hospitals could prescribe medical marijuana to patients

Many veterans – even in legal states – are unable to secure medical marijuana due to federal prohibition. The CARERS Act would give doctors at Veterans Affairs hospitals the ability to prescribe cannabis to veterans to help treat a variety of conditions, including PTSD and substance abuse.

4) Approve the sale and use of non-psychotropic CBD / Cannabidiol in states where marijuana remains illegal

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is considered a miracle drug by many of the people who have tried it – and with good reason. One of the most poignant examples of CBD’s success in medicine is in the drug’s ability to reduce seizures in children with epilepsy. And, because CBD isn’t psychoactive like THC, it can be prescribed to minors as well as adults.

The CARERS Act would be a giant victory for medical marijuana and the millions of individuals and families who rely on it. The proposed legislation would not only protect the medical marijuana industry and make treatment easier to secure, but it would allow for the extensive research we need to truly understand pot’s potential in medicine.

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