A proposed medical marijuana law presented in the U.S. Senate will allow the possession, cultivation, and distribution of medical pot in states where it is legal. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act (CARERS) would essentially end the federal government’s prohibition of medical cannabis.
Introduced by Senators Rand Paul, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Corey Booker, the medical marijuana bill will grant protection from federal prosecution to patients, doctors, and caregivers. While the proposed CARERS Act does not legalize weed nationwide, it modifies current federal law by keeping the U.S. government away from the decisions made by healthcare practitioners and patients when selecting medical marijuana as a possible treatment.
“Federal policy in this space has long overstepped the boundaries of common sense, fiscal prudence, and compassion,” said Sen. Booker, as reported by The Cannabist. “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.”
Not only does the CARERS Act authorize states to make their own medical marijuana policies, but it also opens the door for doctors at Veterans Affairs hospitals to recommend medical cannabis. Currently, VA physicians are prohibited from discussing medical marijuana as an optional treatment even in states where it is legal.
The medical marijuana law significantly changes the federal Controlled Substances Act by making some changes to the definition of marijuana, specifically CARERS will remove some strains of cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical component of cannabis. Oil made from CBD has been shown in case studies to help relieve symptoms of intractable epilepsy, a disorder that mostly affects children.
According to a MarketWatch article, another component of marijuana known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) will remain illegal. THC is the chemical responsible for the infamous high experienced when someone smokes weed.
Under current federal law, researchers interested in studying medical marijuana are met with various legal hurdles and obstructions to get the necessary authorization to examine cannabis. The mounds of paperwork and the months of waiting for authorization essentially slows or halts most health studies of the plant. In hopes of encouraging and expanding research opportunities, the proposed medical marijuana law is supposed to streamline the process and make it much easier to get approval.
Presently, 29 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized medical marijuana in some form. An additional 16 states allow CBD oil as a treatment for a limited number of conditions. If the new medical marijuana bill ultimately becomes national law, states will have greater authority and confidence to create their own medical cannabis programs without fear of prosecution or interference from the U.S. government.
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