Republican Senator Rand Paul has been joined by two Democrats in introducing a bill that would legalize medical marijuana at the federal level, State Column is reporting.
The Kentucky conservative was joined by Democrats Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand in introducing the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act.
“[The Act would] allow patients, doctors and businesses in states that have already passed medical marijuana laws to participate in those programs without fear of federal prosecution.”
Currently, 23 states have legalized medical marijuana in some form or another. Four states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized recreational marijuana. However, at the federal level, marijuana remains illegal.
From a legal standpoint, that means that the Department of Justice could have sent Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents to close down every recreational and medical marijuana dispensary in the nation, should the President or Attorney General feel the need to do so. That is, until 2014’s Cromnibus spending bill, which prohibits the Justice Department from interfering with states’ medical marijuana programs. The CARES Act would make that policy a permanent law, rather than part of a temporary spending bill.
Dan Riffle, of the Marijuana Policy Project, tells Politico that Paul’s bill shows that marijuana reform is being taken seriously in the Senate as well as in the House.
“Several marijuana policy reform bills have been introduced in the House of Representatives. The introduction of this legislation in the Senate demonstrates just how seriously this issue is being taken on Capitol Hill.”
In fact, two marijuana legalization bills were introduced in the House at the end of February, according to this Inquisitr report. Both House bills are aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana at the federal level, not just medical marijuana. Neither bill would force the individual states to legalize pot, but instead would set up a federal regulatory process for those that already have.
Paul’s medical marijuana bill is similar to the House bills in that it wouldn’t force the states to legalize medical marijuana, but would only protect those that have from federal intervention.
The fact that the bill was introduced by a Republican, says State Column writer Ella Vincent, is itself something of a bold move, considering that Republicans in Congress are currently involved in a showdown over the District’s plans to legalize recreational marijuana. Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, says that keeping pot illegal is actually counter to conservative principles of small government.
“Talking about reducing the role of government interference in our personal lives and enhancing personal freedom and autonomy, reducing government spending—those are all conservative talking points.”
Do you support Rand Paul, Corey Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand’s bill to legalize medical marijuana at the federal level? Share your thoughts in the comments below.