A group of Democratic and Republican House and Senate lawmakers introduced comprehensive medical cannabis legislation on Thursday.
The bills — titled the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act — would shield medical marijuana patients and providers who are following state law from federal prosecution.
They would also allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical cannabis to military veterans in states where it is legal. Additionally, the legislation exempts cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act and remove roadblocks that have stood in the way of robust research on marijuana’s medical benefits.
The bills’ introduction comes three days after MassRoots exclusively reported that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked Congressional leaders not to renew a federal spending provision that prevents the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical cannabis laws.
Sessions’s request “underscores why this bill is urgently important,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), the Senate bill’s lead sponsor, said at a press conference surrounded by patients who have benefited from medical cannabis. “Our marijuana laws in America are broken. They are savagely broken and the jagged pieces are hurting the American people.”
Booker added that Sessions, “in his letter, he misrepresents the facts.”
“I dare him to sit down with families and listen to their stories and then pursue a policy like he’s advocating for now,” he said.
Along with Booker, the new Senate bill is sponsored by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rand Paul (R-KY), Al Franken (D-MN) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
On the House side, initial sponsors are Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Don Young (R-AK).
The new versions of the legislation do not include provisions on rescheduling cannabis and increasing marijuana businesses’ access to banks, which were sticking points that had reportedly prevented more members of Congress from signing onto the earlier bills.
In the press conference, Booker hinted that he may soon join a handful of other senators who have endorsed full marijuana legalization. Asked about the increasing prominence of the marijuana debate in his state of New Jersey, where Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Murphy backs legalization, he said, “This press conference and this bipartisan bill is about medical marijuana. You can be confident that you’ll be hearing from me soon on a lot of the issues that are before New Jersey. But where I am on this issue, I don’t want to take away from where we have a bipartisan coalition.”
See below for the full text of the new legislation:
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