Historic Senate Bipartisan Medical Marijuana Bill to be Introduced


Republicans and Democrats have a hard time agreeing on much these days as gridlock dominates our political discourse. Cannabis law reform is one of the few areas that has some politicians looking to reach across the aisle. Once seen as a lefty-hippie position or an right-wing Ayn Randian libertarian stance, sensible marijuana law reform is squarely within the moderate middle as a majority of voters support legalizing marijuana and a super-majority supports medical use. I don’t know how often Democrats Corey Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand will join forces with Republican Rand Paul, but the three senators have agreed to co-sponsor an historic federal medical marijuana bill.

From The Washington Post:

The bill, which activists describe as a first for the Senate, would end the federal prohibition on medical marijuana and implement a number of critical reforms that advocates of both medical and recreational marijuana have been seeking for years, according to several people familiar with the details of the proposal. It would reclassify the drug in the eyes of the Drug Enforcement Agency, allow for limited inter-state transport of the plant, expand access to cannabis for research, and make it easier for doctors to recommend the drug to veterans and easier for banks to provide services to the industry.

“It’s the most comprehensive medical marijuana bill in Congress,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, one of several groups consulted for the bill. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) act grew out of an amendment proposed last year by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and is being introduced by those two senators in conjunction with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

A number of activist organizations deeply involved with passing medical and recreational marijuana laws at the state level were consulted in drafting the bill, including the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project, and Americans for Safe Access. And advocates say they are generally pleased with what they’ve seen and heard.

This is a remarkable step in the right direction for our federal medical marijuana policy. With a majority of Americans now living in states that have rejected marijuana prohibition either through state decriminalization, medical or legalization laws, we will only see more and more politicians realize that marijuana is no longer a third rail of American politics. Cannabis law reform is as moderate as any position and it is hard to get Americans to agree on anything at as high a rate of support as medical use. As we continue to legalize medical and adult use state by state, there will be more cooperation and more bi-partisan bills and federal prohibition will crumble sooner than later.

Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.