The cannabis industry received support from one of Congress’s strongest supporters on the “war on drugs.”
On Monday, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer signed on as a co-sponsor of the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act of 2015. The legislation (known as the CARERS Act) would effectively end the federal ban on medical marijuana and implement a series of reforms. Some of the provisions in the bill include:
- Reschedule marijuana from Schedule 1 substance to Schedule 2 substance.
- Allowing doctors to recommend marijuana to veterans who qualify for it.
- Expanding access to researchers so they can study the medical benefits associated with cannabis, and
- Making it easier for banks to provide services to cannabis businesses
Tides are changing
Senator Schumer’s support for medical marijuana comes after years of work focused on ramping up drug penalties and opposing reforms. Although his support is surprising, he recently said his position on marijuana is evolving.
In an interview with MSNBC last January, Schumer said it is a “good idea” to let states move ahead with implementing legalization without federal interference.
Senator Schumer said, “We now have the states as laboratories, different states at different levels. Colorado and Washington sort of opened the door. I’d be a little cautious here at the federal level and see the laboratories of the states, see their outcomes before we make a decision.”
Increasing support for the bill
The bill now 15 has senators on board, including two Republicans. Marijuana reform advocates believe that the bill can pass if it is brought to the Senate floor, but the legislation is currently stuck in the Judiciary Committee.
Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is the chairman of the committee and he has pushed for reduced barriers to medical research on marijuana, but opposes rescheduling it “based on the current science on the risks and benefits.” Senator Grassley has not committed to hold a hearing or a vote on the legislation.
Earlier this year, President Barack Obama said the divide between Republicans and Democrats on marijuana politics is narrowing. He went on to say that he is encouraged by recent developments because liberal Democrats are no longer the only supporters of legal marijuana. Conservative Republicans have come on board too.