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Support the Federal bill introduced to protect medical marijuana states, provide access to veterans (By Cannabist)

Carers Act

L-R: Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Corey Booker (D-N.J.) arrive at the U.S. Capitol on February 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. The two senators are among a group of lawmakers who have reintroduced legislation to provide access and protection to medical marijuana patients. (Win McNamee, Getty Images)

 

Federal bill introduced to protect medical marijuana states, provide access to veterans

 

By Polly Washburn, The Cannabist Staff

 

A bipartisan group of senators and representatives has reintroduced legislation to protect patients in states where medical marijuana has been legalized.

The bill introduced Thursday is known as the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act. It would not legalize medical marijuana federally, but would amend federal law to officially allow states to set their own medical marijuana policies. Under the bill, Veterans Affairs physicians would be able to recommend medical marijuana to their veteran patients, which they are currently barred from doing.

 

The bill would prevent federal law enforcement from prosecuting patients, doctors and caregivers in states that choose to legalize medical marijuana.

The sponsoring senators are: Al Franken (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah). The House version of the bill is sponsored by representatives Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Don Young (R-Alaska).

 

 

“Federal policy in this space has long overstepped the boundaries of common sense, fiscal prudence, and compassion,” said Booker in a statement. “This bill will help ensure that people who can benefit from medical marijuana – children, the sick, and our veterans – can do so without worrying about the federal government standing in the way.”

Young issued a statement of support, speaking to the problems faced by his constituents in Alaska, which has legalized both medical and recreational marijuana. “I’ve heard from my constituents who have experienced the many challenges associated with the conflicts between state and federal laws,” he said. “Including business owners who are prevented from using the banking system and tax code, veterans who cannot access alternatives to opioids, and even the state which has run into problems collecting tax revenues.”

 

 

At the press conference at the U.S. Capitol to announce the reintroduction of the legislation, medical marijuana patients were also on hand to offer their stories.

 

“Current law means that even though my family and I live in a state where medical marijuana is legal, my twins’ pediatrician can’t discuss what kind or how much they should take,” said Shannon Moore, of Maryland, who provides medical marijuana to her young twins to treat a rare, severe genetic disorder. It also means research is suppressed on this medicine despite what we know about its medical benefits,” Moore continued.

 

More than 20 health, veteran, and policy organizations have endorsed the bill, including the ACLU, Americans for Safe Access, Drug Policy Alliance, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Marijuana Policy Project, The American Cannabis Nurses Association, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, Veterans for Peace, and Veterans for Safe Access and Compassionate Care.

Americans for Safe Access executive director Steph Sherer said in a statement, “With the only protection for these states set to expire with the federal budget in September, a permanent solution to this conflict is urgent and necessary.”

 

Smart Approaches to Marijuana expressed concern about what they see as a dangerous consequence of the bill. “No one wants to deprive chronically ill patients of medication that could be helpful for them,” SAM President Kevin Sabet said in a statement. “But… this bill would completely undermine the FDA approval process, and encourage the use of marijuana and marijuana products that have not been proven either safe or effective. The FDA approval process should set the standard for smart, safe, and sound healthcare in our country, so we can be sure that patients are receiving the best treatments that do more help than harm.”

 

Sabet continued, “Responsible legislation that fast-tracks these medications for those truly in need should be supported, rather than diverting patients to an unregulated CBD market proven to be hawking contaminated or mislabeled products as medicine, as this bill would endorse. We support the development of FDA-approved CBD medications, like Epidolex, which is in the final stages of approval.”

 

The CARERS Act was originally introduced in 2015, and was the first medical marijuana bill to be introduced into the U.S. Senate.

 

Medical marijuana is legal in 30 states and the District of Columbia, and 16 additional states have authorized cannabidiol oil for a narrow range of conditions. However, since cannabis remains illegal under federal law, doctors, patients, and dispensaries that provide medical marijuana are feeling increasingly fearful that they could be subject to federal prosecution.

 

CARERS Act provisions

 

Recognize States’ Responsibility to Set Medical Marijuana Policy & Eliminate Potential Federal Prosecution
The CARERS Act amends the Controlled Substances Act so that states can set their own medical marijuana policies. The patients, providers, and businesses participating in state medical marijuana programs will no longer be in violation of federal law and vulnerable to federal prosecution.

 

Allow States to Import Cannabidiol (CBD), a Recognized Treatment for Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders
The CARERS Act amends the Controlled Substances Act to remove specific strains of CBD oil from the federal definition of marijuana. This change would allow youth suffering from intractable epilepsy to gain access to the medicine they need to control their seizures.

 

Provide Access to Veterans
Current law prohibits doctors in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities from prescribing medical marijuana. The CARERS Act would allow VA doctors in states where medical marijuana is legal to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans.

 

Expand Opportunities for Research
The CARERS Act removes unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles for researchers to gain government approval to undertake important research on marijuana and creates a system for the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to encourage research.

 

Read the full bill here:

 

***START***

 

“ALB17182

 

S.L.C.

 

115TH CONGRESS

1ST SESSION

 

S. ll

 

To extend the principle of federalism to State drug policy, provide access

to medical marijuana, and enable research into the medicinal properties

of marijuana.

 

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

llllllllll

llllllllll introduced the following bill; which was read twice

and referred to the Committee on llllllllll

 

A BILL

To extend the principle of federalism to State drug policy,

provide access to medical marijuana, and enable research

into the medicinal properties of marijuana.

1

 

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representa-

 

2 tives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

3

4

 

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

 

This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Compassionate Access,

 

5 Research Expansion, and Respect States Act of 2017’’ or

6 the ‘‘CARERS Act of 2017’’.

7

8

 

SEC. 2. FEDERALISM IN DRUG POLICY.

 

Section 708 of the Controlled Substances Act (21

 

9 U.S.C. 903) is amended—

 

ALB17182

 

S.L.C.

 

2

1

 

(1) by striking ‘‘No provision’’ and inserting

 

2

 

the following:

 

3

 

‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in subsection

 

4 (b), no provision’’; and

5

6

 

(2) by adding at the end the following:

‘‘(b) COMPLIANCE WITH STATE LAW.—Notwith-

 

7 standing any other provision of law, the provisions of this

8 title relating to marihuana shall not apply to any person

9 acting in compliance with State law, as determined by the

10 State, relating to the production, possession, distribution,

11 dispensation, administration, laboratory testing, recom12 mending use, or delivery of medical marihuana.’’.

13

14

15

 

SEC. 3. EXCLUSION OF CANNABIDIOL FROM DEFINITION OF

MARIHUANA.

 

Section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21

 

16 U.S.C. 802) is amended—

17

18

19

20

 

(1) in paragraph (16)—

(A) by striking ‘‘or cake, or the sterilized’’

and inserting ‘‘cake, the sterilized’’; and

(B) by adding ‘‘, or cannabidiol’’ before

 

21

 

the period at the end; and

 

22

 

(2) by adding at the end the following:

 

23

 

‘‘(57) The term ‘cannabidiol’ means the sub-

 

24

 

stance cannabidiol, as derived from marihuana or

 

25

 

the synthetic formulation, that contains not greater

 

 

ALB17182

 

S.L.C.

 

3

1

 

than 0.3 percent delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on a

 

2

 

dry weight basis.’’.

 

3

4

 

SEC. 4. CANNABIDIOL DETERMINATION BY STATES.

 

Section 201 of the Controlled Substances Act (21

 

5 U.S.C. 811) is amended by adding at the end the fol6 lowing:

7

 

‘‘(k) CANNABIDIOL DETERMINATION.—If a person

 

8 grows or processes marihuana for purposes of making

9 cannabidiol in accordance with State law, the marihuana

10 shall be deemed to meet the concentration limitation under

11 section 102(57), unless the Attorney General determines

12 that the State law is not reasonably calculated to comply

13 with section 102(57).’’.

14

15

 

SEC. 5. RESEARCH.

 

(a) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 180 days after the

 

16 date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Health and

17 Human Services shall terminate the Public Health Service

18 interdisciplinary review process described in the guidance

19 entitled ‘‘Guidance on Procedures for the Provision of

20 Marijuana for Medical Research’’ (issued on May 21,

21 1999).

22

 

(b) LICENSES

 

FOR

 

MARIJUANA RESEARCH .—Not

 

23 later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act,

24 the Attorney General, acting through the Drug Enforce25 ment Administration, shall issue not less than 3 licenses

 

 

ALB17182

 

S.L.C.

 

4

1 under section 303 of the Controlled Substances Act (21

2 U.S.C. 823) to manufacture and distribute marijuana and

3 marijuana-derivatives for research approved by the Food

4 and Drug Administration.

5

 

(c) MARIJUANA RESEARCH.—

 

6

 

(1) IN

 

GENERAL.—Section

 

303(f) of the Con-

 

7

 

trolled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 823(f)) is amend-

 

8

 

ed—

 

9

 

(A)

 

by

 

redesignating

 

paragraphs

 

(1)

 

10

 

through (5) as subparagraphs (A) through (E),

 

11

 

respectively;

 

12

13

14

 

(B) by striking ‘‘(f) The Attorney General’’

and inserting ‘‘(f)(1) The Attorney General’’;

(C) by striking ‘‘Registration applications’’

 

15

 

and inserting the following:

 

16

 

‘‘(2) Registration applications’’;

 

17

 

(D) in paragraph (2), as so designated, by

 

18

 

striking ‘‘schedule I’’ each place that term ap-

 

19

 

pears and inserting ‘‘schedule I, except mari-

 

20

 

juana,’’;

 

21

22

23

24

25

 

(E) by striking ‘‘Article 7’’ and inserting

the following:

‘‘(4) Article 7’’; and

(F) by inserting before paragraph (4), as

so designated, the following:

 

ALB17182

 

S.L.C.

 

5

1

 

‘‘(3)(A) Not later than 180 days after the date of

 

2 enactment of this paragraph, the Secretary shall promul3 gate regulations that require the Secretary to register a

4 practitioner to conduct research on marihuana if—

5

 

‘‘(i) the applicant is authorized to dispense, or

 

6

 

conduct research with respect to, controlled sub-

 

7

 

stances in schedules II, III, IV, and V under the

 

8

 

laws of the State in which the applicant practices;

 

9

 

and

 

10

11

 

‘‘(ii) the applicant’s research protocol—

‘‘(I) has been reviewed and allowed by—

 

12

 

‘‘(aa) the Secretary under section

 

13

 

505(i) of the Federal Food, Drug, and

 

14

 

Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 355(i)); or

 

15

 

‘‘(bb)

 

the

 

National

 

Institutes

 

of

 

16

 

Health or another Federal agency that

 

17

 

funds scientific research; or

 

18

 

‘‘(II) in the case of nonhuman research

 

19

 

that is not federally funded, has been volun-

 

20

 

tarily submitted by the applicant to, and ap-

 

21

 

proved by, the National Institutes of Health.

 

22

 

‘‘(B) The Secretary shall grant an application for

 

23 registration under this paragraph unless the Secretary de24 termines that the issuance of the registration would be in25 consistent with the public interest. In determining the

 

 

ALB17182

 

S.L.C.

 

6

1 public interest, the Secretary shall consider the following

2 factors:

3

 

‘‘(i) The applicant’s experience in dispensing, or

 

4

 

conducting research with respect to, controlled sub-

 

5

 

stances.

 

6

7

8

9

10

 

‘‘(ii) Compliance with applicable Federal or

State laws relating to controlled substances.

‘‘(iii) Conduct by the applicant that may threaten the public health and safety.’’.

(2)

 

CONFORMING

 

AMENDMENT.—Section

 

11

 

102(16) of the Controlled Substances Act (21

 

12

 

U.S.C. 802(16)) is amended by inserting ‘‘or ‘mari-

 

13

 

juana’ ’’ after ‘‘The term ‘marihuana’ ’’.

 

14

 

SEC. 6. PROVISION BY DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AF-

 

15

 

FAIRS HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS OF REC-

 

16

 

OMMENDATIONS AND OPINIONS REGARDING

 

17

 

VETERAN PARTICIPATION IN STATE MARI-

 

18

 

JUANA PROGRAMS.

 

19

 

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Sec-

 

20 retary of Veterans Affairs shall authorize physicians and

21 other health care providers employed by the Department

22 of Veterans Affairs to—

23

 

(1) provide recommendations and opinions to

 

24

 

veterans who are residents of States with State

 

ALB17182

 

S.L.C.

 

7

1

 

marijuana programs regarding the participation of

 

2

 

veterans in such State marijuana programs; and

 

3

4

 

(2) complete forms reflecting such recommendations and opinions.

 

 

 

*** End ***

 

Please contact your senators and representatives to let them know that you support the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act!

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