A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a bill on Thursday that would allow state medical marijuana laws to supersede the current federal prohibition on weed. The bill is dubbed the CARERS Act, which stands for the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act.
“The fact is our marijuana laws in America are broken,” Democratic Sen. Cory Booker said at the bill’s unveiling at the Capitol. “They are savagely broken, and the jagged pieces are hurting American people.”
The legislation would allow the varying laws legalizing some form of medical marijuana in 30 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam to stand. When it was introduced in 2015 it was the first ever medical marijuana bill introduced in the U.S. Senate. But times have changed since then.
For one, back then the bill only had three original sponsors: Booker, Democratic Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand and Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who has long supported medical marijuana as part if his libertarian platform. Now it has six, adding Democratic Sen. Al Franken and Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mike Lee. The other big change from 2015: Donald Trump now occupies the Oval Office.
While running for president Trump said marijuana laws should be decided at the state level, but then he tapped marijuana-hating Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general.
It just came to light that Sessions privately sent a letter to congressional leaders in May asking them to undo a provision in federal law that bars his Justice Department from going after legal marijuana businesses.
“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Sessions penned. “The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”
But the new bill’s proponents argue Sessions’ thinking is misguided, especially when it comes to people gripped with epilepsy and those who suffer from seizures who report cannabidiol, or CBD as it’s commonly known, is a miracle cure that cuts their seizures down as much as 45 percent.
“I dare him to sit down with families and listen to their stories and then pursue a policy like he’s advocating for now,” Booker says of Sessions’ letter going after medical marijuana businesses. The CARERS Act would take CBD off the list of controlled substances, which would allow children in states where medical marijuana isn’t legal to access the life changing oil.
While the bill’s proponents know their proposal faces an uphill battle, they also say they believe the effort is quickly picking up steam, especially because many red states have now passed some form of legal weed. “I believe things are changing and they’re changing fast,” Sen. Gillibrand tells Rolling Stone. “I think we will get the support we need.”
The legislation also allows the nation’s veterans to access legal weed by removing the current restriction that bars doctors at Veterans Affairs hospitals from prescribing pot to their patients. But it doesn’t go near the politically touchy subject of what to do with the nation’s eight states and the District of Columbia that have opted to legalize weed for recreational use. But many of the bill’s proponents say that effort will come later.
Correction: A previous version of this article listed one of the supporters as Steve Cohen. He is a supporter of the bill in the House, not the Senate.