There are now at least 14 bills pending in Congress to scale back marijuana prohibition in some way.
On Thursday, Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Congressman Darren Soto (D-FL) joined forces across the aisle to file legislation to move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act.
(See below for the full text of the new bill as obtained by MassRoots. The legislation isn’t yet on Congress’s website.)
Keeping marijuana in the most restrictive category under federal law “harms low-income communities each year, it turns thousands of citizens into felons and it punishes people who are sick and looking for medical help,” Gaetz said in a floor speech announcing the new bill.
“I think of Rayann, a young lady in my district with juvenile refractory epilepsy. She has seizures every day,” he said. “Other treatments failed, but medical marijuana helped improve her condition. I thought of her when I worked on, and passed, Florida’s Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act.”
Gaetz was referring to a law that allows cannabidiol (CBD) extracts that he supported as a state legislator. Separately, Florida voters approved a much more comprehensive medical cannabis law at the ballot box last November.
In a press release, Soto added, “Floridians have spoken and Medical Marijuana is the law of the land. It’s now time for the federal government to recognize this emerging law and the well-known medical benefits of marijuana.”
Instead of simply moving marijuana to Schedule II as some other pending proposals would do, going one step lower down the list of controlled substances to Schedule III would have significant added impacts.
It would, for example, protect state-legal marijuana growers and providers from a provision known as 280E that prevents them from taking normal business deductions from their taxes. That law only affects businesses and individuals who handle Schedule I and II substances.
It would also protect federal employees who use marijuana from an executive order signed by President Ronald Reagan that defines illegal drugs as those classified under Schedule I or II.
More generally, rescheduling marijuana would remove remaining roadblocks to research on its medical benefits.
“Marijuana must be moved to schedule III, which will make it easier to conduct research into its medical uses,” Gaetz said in the floor speech. “It will allow businesses to work with banks instead of looking over their shoulders in fear of a Federal raid, and it will keep States from being at odds with Federal law.”
Schedule I is supposed to be reserved for substances with no medical value and a high potential for abuse.
In a Dear Colleague letter circulated earlier this month seeking support for the legislation from fellow members of Congress, Soto wrote:
“Drug abuse is a danger to our Nation, and the overly punitive, unscientific scheduling of marijuana makes these problems worse. This drug should not be in the same category as heroin and LSD, and our Nation cannot continue a policy that turns thousands of non-violent young people into felons every year. Nor can we continue to punish millions of people who are sick and seeking medical help — from things like pain, anxiety, muscle wasting, and chemotherapy-induced nausea.”
Polls consistently show that the vast majority of Americans support medical cannabis and allowing states to set their own marijuana laws without federal interference.
The full text of the legislation is embedded below.
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