Congressmen Cohen & Young Introduce Bipartisan House Companion to Sens. Rand Paul, Cory Booker & Kirsten Gillibrand’s Medical Marijuana Legislation

March 24, 2015
Press Release

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressmen Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Don Young (AK-AL) have introduced H.R. 1538, the bipartisan House companion to the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act that Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced in the Senate this month. The legislation would let states set their own medical marijuana policies, recognize a legitimate medical use for marijuana at the federal level, allow Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors to recommend safe and effective marijuana-related treatments, and increase access to a non-psychoactive treatment that could 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.

“Drug policy reform is long overdue, but I am pleased that today it is an issue that unites both Democrats and Republicans,” said Congressman Cohen. “The science has been in for a long time, and keeping marijuana on Schedule I—with heroin and LSD—is ludicrous. I am pleased to join with Congressman Don Young in introducing this important bill to bring the federal government in line with the science and the American people, respect states’ rights, remove the threat of federal prosecution in states with medical marijuana, and help our citizens access the treatments they need.”

“The topic of medical and recreational marijuana has always been an issue of state’ rights for me, a position based upon a strong belief in the 10th Amendment and the principals of federalism established by our Founders,” said Congressman Don Young. “The CARERS Act aims to protect states that have legalized medical marijuana and allow them to properly enforce their own laws. My position aims to reaffirm the states’ rights to determine the nature of criminal activity within their own jurisdictions, which I believe is critical for states to effectively legislate within their borders.”

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. 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.