A proposed bill, crafted by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, would protect citizens in states that have legalized medical marijuana but can still face penalties due to federal laws stating otherwise.
The legislation, known as the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act, was created by Democratic senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky. While the legislation stops short of legalizing the drug throughout the nation, it would eliminate potential punishments or penalties of those who do use the drug for medical purposes in states where it is legal, Slate reported.
During the announcement of the law last month, Booker spoke on the importance of state’s rights, a long-held view of the Republican Party.
“The bill that we are introducing seeks to right decades of wrong. Doctors and patients deserve federal laws that are fair and compassionate, and states should be able to set their own medical marijuana policies without federal interference,” Booker said.
The law would allow states to create and implement their own legal precedents of medical marijuana legalization, without having to worry about federal guidelines. Some states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia.
Marijuana legalization advocates also support the legislation’s attempts to declassify the drug, categorizing it in a different “schedule” than its current one. Right now, the Drug Enforcement Administration has marijuana labeled as a Schedule 1 drug, the same category as LSD and heroin. The bill aims to move marijuana to Schedule 2, where it will be labeled as a drug that has some kind of health benefits, The Huffington Post reported.
Other proposals in the legislation would include banks being allowed to do business with marijuana dispensaries and increased funding for research on the drug, which may lead to more information on the medical benefits it provides.
In an interview with CNN’s Sanjay Gupta that aired April 19, President Barack Obama voiced his support for the legislation.
“I’m on record as saying that not only do I think carefully prescribed medical use of marijuana may in fact be appropriate and we should follow the science as opposed to ideology on this issue, but I’m also on record as saying that the more we treat some of these issues related to drug abuse from a public health model and not just from an incarceration model, the better off we’re going to be,” the president said.
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