Today, a bi-partisan group of politicians including Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Al Franken (D-MN), and Mike Lee (R-UT), along with Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Don Young (R-AK), reintroduced legislation to protect patients from federal prosecution in states with legal cannabis.
The CARERS Act, an acronym for Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States, would change federal law to formally allow states to set individual medical marijuana laws and permit doctors within the VA to prescribe veterans medical marijuana to treat injuries and chronic conditions.
Currently, medical cannabis businesses that operate in compliance with their state regulations have protections in the form of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment which prevents the Department of Justice from using federal funds to prosecute them. However, this provision is attached to the appropriations bill each year and must be revisited and renewed annually.
In the wake of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ formal request of Congress to roll back the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, the timing of this bill is sending the message that many members of Congress do not support Sessions’ attack on the marijuana industry or the current drug policy. Senator Booker announced in a press release today:
“Federal marijuana policy has long overstepped the boundaries of common sense, fiscal prudence, and compassion. This bill will help ensure that people who can benefit from medical marijuana — from children suffering from chronic illnesses to veterans battling PTSD — can do so without worrying about the federal government standing in the way.”
Specifically, the CARERS Act would:
- Allow States to Set Medical Marijuana Policy & Eliminate Potential Federal Prosecution — patients, providers, and businesses in legal cannabis states will no longer have to fear prosecution by the federal government.
- Allow Cross-State Deliveries of Cannabidiol (CBD) — by removing certain strains of CBD oil from the federal definition of marijuana, allowing pediatric epilepsy patients to gain access to the medicine they need regardless if their state produces it.
- Provide Veterans Access — the CARERS Act allows VA doctors in legal states to recommend medical cannabis to veterans.
- Expand Opportunities for Research — by removing barriers to research and creating a system to encourage research.
More than 20 health, veteran, and policy organizations support the CARERS Act. They include Americans for Safe Access, Drug Policy Alliance, the American Civil Liberties Union, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Marijuana Policy Project, Parents Coalition for Rescheduling Medical Cannabis, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, The American Cannabis Nurses Association, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, Veterans for Peace, and Veterans for Safe Access and Compassionate Care.