In light of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recently revealed attempt to restore Congressional funding for the prosecution of state-legal cannabis operations, a group of bipartisan U.S. Senators has reintroduced the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, according to a Rolling Stone report.
The CARERS Act, originally introduced in 2015, was the first piece of federal legislation to attempt to reform cannabis prohibition. The 2015 bill was sponsored by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Cory Booker (D-NJ); when it was reintroduced last Thursday, three more U.S. senators joined that bipartisan list: Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Al Franken (D-MN), and Mike Lee (R-UT).
“The fact is our marijuana laws in America are broken,” Sen. Booker said last Thursday at the bill’s unveiling. “They are savagely broken, and the jagged pieces are hurting American people.”
If passed into law, the CARERS Act would obligate the federal recognition of statewide medical cannabis laws, preventing federal enforcement action in states with medical cannabis on the books. Currently, there are dozens of MMJ markets throughout the U.S. states and territories, which are only protected by the inclusion of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment in federal spending bills. However, the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment is only a temporary fix and has the potential to not be included in future spending bills — which could open up enforcement options by the DOJ against state-legal medical cannabis markets.
The new CARERS Act would also remove CBD from the Controlled Substances Act, making access significantly easier for researchers and people suffering from seizure disorders, and would open cannabis treatment options up to veterans in legal states by removing restrictions that block Veterans Affairs doctors from making MMJ recommendations.
However, the proposal would not offer any protections to the eight states and Washington D.C. that have voted to legalize adult-use cannabis.
The CARERS Act of 2015 died in a slough of subcommittees in both the House and Senate — as has typically been the case for federal reform efforts since then. The additional sponsors in the Senate for this year’s effort could spell a different outcome this time around, but only time will tell.
Meanwhile, the lawmakers sponsoring the CARERS Act are not the first elected officials to speak out recently against AG Sessions’ personal vendetta against state-legal cannabis. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf threatened last week in a letter to the Attorney General that he would take legal action if there were ever a federal crackdown on medical cannabis, while California Sen. Kamala Harris told Sessions in an impassioned speech last month that there are more important issues than “grandma’s medical marijuana” that need addressing.
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