Bipartisan CARERS Act Medical Marijuana Bill Reintroduced in US Senate

The United States Capitol in Washington, DC (Wikimedia/David Maiolo)

WASHINGTON, DC — United States Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Corey Booker (D-NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) reintroduced a bill Thursday that would end the federal prohibition of medical marijuana. Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) also signed on to the legislation as original co-sponsors.

The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (or CARERS) Act of 2017 would allow individuals and entities to possess, produce, and distribute medical marijuana if they are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. It would also open up avenues to medical marijuana research and allow physicians employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to veterans in states where it is legal. The bill also proposes excluding cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana, from the federal government’s definition of “marijuana.”

This is the second time the CARERS Act has been introduced. It was first introduced on March 10, 2015, during the 114th Congress.

Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted effective medical marijuana laws. An additional 19 states have adopted laws that recognize the medical value of marijuana but are unworkable or exceptionally limited.

According to an April poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, 94 percent of U.S. voters support allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes, including 96 percent of Democrats, 90 percent of Republicans, and 95 percent of independents.

“The reintroduction of the CARERS Act is the first of many steps we hope this Congress will take to end the federal prohibition of medical marijuana,” Don Murphy, director of conservative outreach for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “The addition of Sens. Lee and Murkowski as original co-sponsors should inspire other Republicans to seriously consider this legislation and the absurd federal overreach that it seeks to correct. Marijuana is effective in the treatment of several debilitating conditions. The federal government should not be meddling in state laws that allow it or obstructing research into its many medical benefits.

“Polls show overwhelmingly strong support for medical marijuana, and it spans the political spectrum. There is no better example of an issue that garners the level of bipartisan support necessary to pass meaningful legislation. Twenty-nine states and our nation’s capital have enacted effective medical marijuana programs, and an additional 19 states have adopted laws that recognize marijuana’s medical value. There is no rational reason to continue prohibiting seriously ill patients from using this medicine or punishing those who provide it to them,” added Murphy.

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