Yesterday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a proposal to reform current medical marijuana laws, including allowing for patients to travel across state lines to purchase low-THC strains of marijuana like “Charlotte’s Web.”
The Compassionate Access Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, which was authored by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Gillibrand, also reforms current funding restrictions for marijuana research, ThinkProgress reported. It would allow veterans to use cannabis as a form of treatment by allowing the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ doctors to prescribe the drug, give states the authority to develop their own marijuana laws, and allow giving marijuana-based businesses access to bank services for the first time.
One of the biggest provisions in the act is that marijuana would be rescheduled — changed from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug. Marijuana has been classified as a Schedule 1 drug since 1970, meaning the DEA defines it as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” and as one of “the most dangerous drugs.” Also considered Schedule I drugs are heroin, LSD, and peyote.
Schedule II drugs, while still considered to have a high potential of abuse, are classified as less dangerous than Schedule I. Schedule II drugs include cocaine, meth, many ADD/ADHD drugs, and the painkillers Dilaudid, Demerol, and OxyContin.
For comparison, Vicodin and other hydrocodones are Schedule III — “defined as drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence,” and alcohol and tobacco were given specific exemptions and aren’t classified under any Schedule.
Remaining Schedule I is what creates the “legal at the state level, illegal at the federal” problem that hangs over all marijuana reform. As part of the Controlled Substances Act, the federal government is prohibited from making any exceptions to marijuana prohibition, can not allow doctors to prescribe or pharmacies to dispense the drug, and enforce extreme regulations on marijuana research.
Currently 34 states have legalized some form of marijuana for medical use, including Florida which legalized a single strain, “Charlotte’s Web,” a low-THC, high-cannabidiol plant.
Florida’s law was signed last summer, and went into effect at the beginning of 2015. Patients might not actually be able to purchase the drug until at least December because of legislative hurdles delaying nurseries from legally growing marijuana. Because of the the federal restrictions, patients are also not legally allowed to bring marijuana bought in other states back into Florida.
Sens. Booker, Gillibrand, and Paul’s proposal would erase many of the roadblocks preventing patients from receiving the treatment they so desperately need and go along way to moving forward marijuana reform that has significant national support behind it.