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:
To extend the principle of federalism to State drug policy, provide access
to medical marijuana, and enable research into the medicinal properties
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
llllllllll introduced the following bill; which was read twice
and referred to the Committee on llllllllll
To extend the principle of federalism to State drug policy,
provide access to medical marijuana, and enable research
into the medicinal properties of marijuana.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representa-
2 tives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
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’’.
SEC. 2. FEDERALISM IN DRUG POLICY.
Section 708 of the Controlled Substances Act (21
9 U.S.C. 903) is amended—
(1) by striking ‘‘No provision’’ and inserting
‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in subsection
4 (b), no provision’’; and
(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.’’.
SEC. 3. EXCLUSION OF CANNABIDIOL FROM DEFINITION OF
Section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21
16 U.S.C. 802) is amended—
(1) in paragraph (16)—
(A) by striking ‘‘or cake, or the sterilized’’
and inserting ‘‘cake, the sterilized’’; and
(B) by adding ‘‘, or cannabidiol’’ before
the period at the end; and
(2) by adding at the end the following:
‘‘(57) The term ‘cannabidiol’ means the sub-
stance cannabidiol, as derived from marihuana or
the synthetic formulation, that contains not greater
than 0.3 percent delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on a
dry weight basis.’’.
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:
‘‘(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).’’.
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,
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
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.
(c) MARIJUANA RESEARCH.—
303(f) of the Con-
trolled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 823(f)) is amend-
through (5) as subparagraphs (A) through (E),
(B) by striking ‘‘(f) The Attorney General’’
and inserting ‘‘(f)(1) The Attorney General’’;
(C) by striking ‘‘Registration applications’’
and inserting the following:
‘‘(2) Registration applications’’;
(D) in paragraph (2), as so designated, by
striking ‘‘schedule I’’ each place that term ap-
pears and inserting ‘‘schedule I, except mari-
(E) by striking ‘‘Article 7’’ and inserting
‘‘(4) Article 7’’; and
(F) by inserting before paragraph (4), as
so designated, the following:
‘‘(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—
‘‘(i) the applicant is authorized to dispense, or
conduct research with respect to, controlled sub-
stances in schedules II, III, IV, and V under the
laws of the State in which the applicant practices;
‘‘(ii) the applicant’s research protocol—
‘‘(I) has been reviewed and allowed by—
‘‘(aa) the Secretary under section
505(i) of the Federal Food, Drug, and
Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 355(i)); or
Health or another Federal agency that
funds scientific research; or
‘‘(II) in the case of nonhuman research
that is not federally funded, has been volun-
tarily submitted by the applicant to, and ap-
proved by, the National Institutes of Health.
‘‘(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
1 public interest, the Secretary shall consider the following
‘‘(i) The applicant’s experience in dispensing, or
conducting research with respect to, controlled sub-
‘‘(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.’’.
102(16) of the Controlled Substances Act (21
U.S.C. 802(16)) is amended by inserting ‘‘or ‘mari-
juana’ ’’ after ‘‘The term ‘marihuana’ ’’.
SEC. 6. PROVISION BY DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AF-
FAIRS HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS OF REC-
OMMENDATIONS AND OPINIONS REGARDING
VETERAN PARTICIPATION IN STATE MARI-
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—
(1) provide recommendations and opinions to
veterans who are residents of States with State
marijuana programs regarding the participation of
veterans in such State marijuana programs; and
(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!