Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Bipartisan Medical Marijuana Bill Gains Momentum in House and Senate

March 31, 2015
Press Release

[MEMPHIS, TN] – Medical marijuana legislation led in the House by Congressmen Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Don Young (R-AK) and in the Senate by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is gaining more and more bipartisan support. Six Republicans and six Democrats have now cosponsored the bipartisan, bicameral Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act, which would let states set their own medical marijuana policies, recognize a legitimate medical use for marijuana at the federal level, and allow Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors to recommend safe and effective marijuana-related treatments. The CARERS Act would also increase access to a non-psychoactive treatment that might have helped save the life of 3-year-old Memphian Chloe Grauer, who suffered from hundreds of seizures each day before tragically passing away late last year.

“Republicans and Democrats agree: federal law on medical marijuana is outdated, out of touch, and needs to change,” said Congressman Cohen. “Ailing patients deserve compassion, not prosecution, especially when they live in states that have legalized medical marijuana.  I thank my colleagues for supporting this bill and I hope their brave stances cause more Members of Congress help us pass this common-sense bill to respect states’ rights.”

“We need policies that empower states to legalize medical marijuana if they so choose—recognizing that there are Americans who can realize real medical benefits if this treatment option is brought out of the shadows,” said Senator Booker. “The growing momentum and bipartisan support for the CARERS Act in both the Senate and House are a clear indication that together, we can and will make medical marijuana accessible to the millions of Americans who could benefit from it.”

In addition to lead sponsors Senator Booker and Congressman Cohen, the CARERS Act is cosponsored by Senators Paul (R-KY), Gillbrand (D-NY), Heller (R-NV), and Boxer (D-CA) as well as Representatives Young (R-AK), Conyers (D-MI), Rohrabacher (R-CA), Nadler (D-NY), Hunter (R-CA), Lofgren (D-CA), Hanna (R-NY) and Norton (D-DC). This bipartisan legislation, which builds upon previous House efforts, would not legalize medical marijuana in any state but it would cause the federal government to respect states’ rights to set their own medical marijuana policies and prevent federal law enforcement from prosecuting patients, doctors and caregivers in those states.

“I welcome the support H.R. 1538 has received in recent days and look forward to building a broader coalition for states’ rights on the issue of marijuana,” said Congressman Don Young. “As I’ve said before, my support for the CARERS Act and similar efforts in Congress has always been based upon a strong belief in the 10th Amendment and the principals of federalism.  The CARERS Act is just one step towards protecting states that have legalized marijuana, and would allow them to properly enforce their laws and business practices.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have already legalized medical marijuana. Roughly a dozen additional states recognize a medical use for cannabidiol (CBD), a therapeutic compound derived from marijuana that has virtually no THC, the drug’s psychoactive ingredient, but that families have used successfully to treat their children’s seizures.

Memphis 3-year-old Chloe Grauer suffered from a rare neurological disease that caused her to have 100 to 200 seizures daily. Her family tried dozens of options to treat her disease including medications and surgery, but nothing stopped the seizures. Her family also tried to treat her with CBD, but were unable to because of marijuana’s Schedule I classification—the same highly-restrictive classification as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Sadly, Chloe passed away late last year. Despite current federal limits on marijuana research and medical usage, there is mounting evidence that the drug is an effective and safe treatment for nausea, pain, anxiety, and other disorders including certain symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

If passed and signed into law, the CARERS Act would:

  • Allow states to set their own medical marijuana policies and eliminate federal prosecution of patients, providers, and businesses in states with medical marijuana programs,
  • Reschedule marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II, recognizing legitimate medical use
  • Allow for greater access to cannabidiol (CBD),
  • Allow access to banking services for marijuana-related businesses that are operating pursuant to state law,
  • Allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana, and
  • Cut red tape and expand opportunities for research on marijuana.

When the Controlled Substances Act first became law in 1970, Assistant Secretary of Health Roger Egeberg recommended that marijuana be placed on Schedule I temporarily until the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (known as the Shafer Commission) reported its findings on the drug. The Commission’s 1972 report recommended decriminalizing the drug, though that recommendation was never acted upon.