Yesterday, United States Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Rand Paul presented a new bill that would dramatically shift the federal government’s long-time position on medical marijuana. The law would effectively end the nominal national ban on the drug, opening up avenues for states to pursue medical programs without interference from Washington.
Currently, a lot of ambiguity exists around the federal government’s official ban on medical weed, and how it affects states’ individual medical marijuana programs. Doctors can prescribe the drug in its natural form in 23 states and Washington D.C., but serious legal conflicts make it a thorny issue for medical professionals, as well as banks that deal with pot-related businesses. (Twelve other states have partial laws, or only allow use of certain extracts or synthetic forms of marijuana.) Booker, Gillibrand, and Paul’s proposal, called the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act (CARERS), would end these conflicts, allowing those who use or prescribe medical marijuana to do so without worrying about running afoul of federal law.
Two congressmen filed separate House bills on Friday that together would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana at the federal level, effectively ending the U.S. government's decadeslong prohibition of the plant.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act's schedules, transfer oversight of the substance from the Drug Enforcement Administration over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and regulate marijuana in a way similar to how alcohol is currently regulated in the U.S.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced the Marijuana Tax Revenue Act, which would set up a federal excise tax for regulated marijuana.
The bills would not force states to legalize marijuana, but a federal regulatory framework would be in place for those states that do decide to legalize it. To date, four states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana (however, D.C.'s model continues to ban sales), 23 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes and 11 other states have legalized the limited use of low-THC forms of marijuana for medical use.