Washington, D.C. – Alaska Congressman Don Young today joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers to introduce the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act – legislation that works to resolve a number of issues related to the legalization of medical marijuana by states across the nation. Sponsors of the bill include Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) along with Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Al Franken (D-MN).
“I’m proud to join this notable group of lawmakers – from both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol – to reintroduce the CARERs Act,” said Congressman Young. “Since the Alaskan people first legalized marijuana, I’ve heard from my constituents who have experienced the many challenges associated with the conflicts between State and Federal laws – including business owners who are prevented from using the banking system and tax code, veterans who cannot access alternatives to opioids, and even the State which has run into problems collecting tax revenues. The CARERS Act is a broad piece of legislation that works to solve many of these problems – particularly for medical marijuana. As a co-founder of the House Cannabis Caucus and passionate supporter of this issue as a matter of states’ rights, I look forward to working with all stakeholders in order to move this legislation.”
The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act would amend federal law to allow states to set their own medical marijuana policies. The bill would also permit doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs to prescribe veterans medical marijuana to treat serious injuries and chronic conditions.
The bipartisan legislation, which continues previous years’ efforts in the House and Senate, would not legalize medical marijuana in any state but it would cause the federal government to respect states’ rights to set their own medical marijuana policies, and prevents federal law enforcement from prosecuting patients, doctors, and caregivers in those states. The legislation comes only days after the release of a letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which asks Congress to allow the Department of Justice to prosecute medical marijuana users and providers.
Specifically, the CARERS Act would:
(1) Recognize States’ Responsibility to Set Medical Marijuana Policy & Eliminate Potential Federal Prosecution
- The CARERS Act amends the Controlled Substances Act so that states can set their own medical marijuana policies. The patients, providers, and businesses participating in state medical marijuana programs will no longer be in violation of federal law and vulnerable to federal prosecution.
(2) Allow States to Import Cannabidiol (CBD), Recognized Treatment for Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders
- The CARERS Act amends the Controlled Substances Act to remove specific strains of CBD oil from the federal of definition of marijuana. This change will allow youth suffering from intractable epilepsy to gain access to the medicine they need to control their seizures.
(3) Provide Veterans Access
- Current law prohibits doctors in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities from prescribing medical marijuana. The CARERS Act would allow VA doctors in states where medical marijuana is legal to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans.
(4) Expand Opportunities for Research
- The CARERS Act removes unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles for researchers to gain government approval to undertake important research on marijuana and creates a system for the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to encourage research.
The CARERS Act has the support of more than 20 health, veteran and policy organizations, including: American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Safe Access, Compassionate Care NY, Coalition for Medical Marijuana NJ, Drug Policy Alliance, Housing Works, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Marijuana Policy Project, MS Resources of Central New York, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, NY Physicians for Compassionate Care, Parents Coalition for Rescheduling Medical Cannabis, Patients Out of Time, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, The American Cannabis Nurses Association, The Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester, Third Way, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, Veterans for Peace and Veterans for Safe Access and Compassionate Care.