A proposed law making its way through the Senate would all but end the federal government’s campaign against medical marijuana.

Washington, D.C.Three senators – Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey; Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky; and Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York – introduced a sweeping piece of legislation in March that would cut back on the government’s legal ability to arrest and prosecute cannabis patients and providers.

“This bill that we are introducing seeks to right decades of wrong,” Booker said. “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. I am thankful to Senators Gillibrand and Paul, as well as the Drug Policy Alliance, for their hard work on this common-sense bill to make medical marijuana accessible to the millions of Americans who could benefit from it.”

CARERS Act would prevent feds from interfering with state MMJ laws

The bill, called the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act (also known as the CARERS Act), would prevent the feds from cracking down on medical marijuana, while encouraging new research into pot’s benefits. The key provisions would make it safer for patients, physicians, cultivators, processors, and retailers to buy, sell, and make cannabis for medical use.

Congress and President Obama enacted a law late last year that bars the Department of Justice from targeting medical marijuana in the 23 states where it’s legal. The new legislation is much broader than that law.

The proposal would actually amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) so states could adopt pot for medical purposes if they want. It would mark the first major change to the Act since it was adopted in 1970.

Marijuana currently scheduled alongside heroin, ecstasy and LSD

medical_marijuana_doctorPresently marijuana is listed as a schedule 1 drug under the CSA, among heroin, ecstasy, LSD, and other drugs that the feds consider highly dangerous, highly addictive, and medically useless. Moving cannabis to a lower schedule would make it easier for doctors to recommend the drug under state MMJ laws.

The three sponsors want to move weed to schedule 2, where it would keep company with methamphetamine and cocaine, among other recreational drugs allowed for highly restricted medical use. Cocaine, for example, can be used as a topical anesthetic in certain eye surgeries, while meth is used to treat obesity and attention-deficit conditions.

The change wouldn’t actually make the drug any more legal than it is, since there are other federal laws that specifically prohibit the cultivation, possession, sale, trafficking, and processing of cannabis. But it would make it much less hazardous for states to allow medical pot under their own laws.

Bill would also target CBD

The Senate bill would also deschedule CBD cannabis, a non-intoxicating form of the drug that can be used to treat seizure disorders in children (along with a few other conditions). That would likely lead to more states with pro-CBD laws.

The proposed law would also lift barriers that prevent federal physicians from helping sick veterans obtain medicinal marijuana. More than 20 weed policy groups support the legislation, including the ACLU, the Drug Policy Alliance, and the Marijuana Policy Project.

“This comprehensive proposal would effectively end the war on medical marijuana and let states compassionately provide care for seriously ill people without the federal government standing in the way,” said Tom Angell of the reform group Marijuana Majority. “The fact that two young Democrats with likely long political futures have teamed up with a probable 2016 Republican presidential candidate shows how medical marijuana is a nonpartisan, noncontroversial issue that draws support from across the spectrum.”

About the Author: Matt Brooks

Matt is a journalist from San Francisco who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than six years.

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