Amherst, NY – Standing at the DENT Neurological Institute, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Western New York families with children and loved ones in need of treatment today pushed for the passage of new bipartisan legislation that will allow the use of medical marijuana in states where it is legal without fear of federal prosecution. Gillibrand’s new bill the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act would reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I to Schedule II drug to recognize it has accepted medical use, and would amend federal law to allow states to set their own medical marijuana policies. The bill would also permit VA doctors to prescribe veterans medical marijuana to treat serious injuries and chronic conditions. The legislation would not legalize medical marijuana in all 50 states, rather it would respect the states that set their own medical marijuana programs and prevents federal law enforcement from prosecuting patients, doctors and caregivers in those states. Currently, 23 states plus the District of Columbia have already legalized medical marijuana.
“The federal government should not get in between doctors and the families they treat who need to access to this medicine for their loved ones,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It’s time to modernize our laws and recognize the health benefits of medical marijuana. The CARERS Act will no longer put politicians between doctors and patients. It will let doctors do their job and give parents every available option to comfort their children.”
“As the medical director of the Dent Neurologic Institute, the largest out-patient neurologic center in the United States, I applaud and support the bipartisan legislative efforts of Senators Gillibrand, Booker and Paul in introducing the CARERS Act,” said Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, Medical Director of the DENT Neurologic Institute. “The compassionate use of medical marijuana is most often used in the treatment of neurologic disorders such as Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinsons’s disease, Spasticity, Neuropathy and Huntington’s disease. Some of the benefits of the CARERS Act Include expanded opportunities for research, reclassifying Marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II and providing Veterans with access. Doctors must have the authority and respect in order to be true advocates for our patients. Today’s announcement is a giant step in allowing physicians the right to practice the art of medicine and the science of research, with the ultimate goal in improving the quality of life for our patients. For this alone, I thank the Senators for their efforts and trust in our medical community.”
“On behalf of Maya, myself and my entire family that has witnessed Maya struggle for far too long, I am urging our nation’s leaders to support this groundbreaking piece of legislation,” said Lisa Valle. “We’d like to thank Senator Gillibrand and her colleagues for so compassionately introducing this legislation to help those struggling with debilitating illnesses. As a mother of a medically fragile child, I should not be put in the position between being a law abiding citizen or a good mom. The CARERS Act gives families like mine better hope for tomorrow.”
Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia, and 14 states have laws on the books or are about to be signed into law by their governors regulating cannabidiol (CBD) oils, a non-psychotropic component of medical marijuana which some families use to treat their children’s seizures. However federal leaves doctors who prescribe, patients who use and businesses that sell medical marijuana vulnerable to arrest. As a currently classified Schedule I drug, federal law also severely restricts medical marijuana research, as well as fair and safe financial services for medical marijuana-related businesses.
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) Reschedule Marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II, Recognizing “Accepted Medical Use”
Marijuana is currently listed as a Schedule I drug, meaning it does not currently have accepted medical use in the United States. The CARERS Act moves it to Schedule II, recognizing what Americans already know: marijuana has a legitimate medical purpose.
(3) Allow States to Import Cannbidiol (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 will allow youth suffering from intractable epilepsy to gain access to the medicine they need to control their seizures.
(4) Provide Veterans Access
Doctors in Department of Veterans Affairs facilities are currently prohibited prescribing medical marijuana. The CARERS Act would allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans.
(5) Permit Financial Services and Banking for Marijuana Dispensaries
Right now, medical marijuana business is a cash business. The CARERS Act provides a safe harbor to banks and credit unions, their officers and employees that provide financial services to marijuana-related businesses that engage in activities pursuant to state law.
(6) Expand Opportunities for Research
The CARERS Act removes unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles for researchers to gain government approval to undertake important research on marijuana.
Though federal law limits the opportunities for research, studies have shown that medical marijuana is an effective treatment for a variety of illnesses. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences conducted a two-year review of data and found widespread agreement that medical marijuana can treat nausea, pain and anxiety. A conclusion from another study through the University of California found evidence that medical cannabis can treat certain types of pain syndromes caused by injury or diseases of the nervous system, and possibly for painful muscle spasticity due to multiple sclerosis.
Gillibrand introduced the CARERS Act on March 10, 2015 with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), Dean Heller (R-NV) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA). 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.