Tags: Marijuana | Rand Paul | Corey Booker | Kirsten Gillibrand

Senators Introduce Measure to Legalize Medical Marijuana

By    |   Tuesday, 10 March 2015 03:25 PM

Three senators introduced legislation Tuesday aimed at legalizing medical marijuana.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky joined Democrat Sens. Corey Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York in introducing the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act, which would allow doctors, patients, and businesses in states that have passed medical marijuana laws to use medical pot without fear of federal prosecution.

The legislation would also allow veterans in states which have legalized medical marijuana to receive taxpayer-provided care.

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, the senators – joined by people who said their debilitating medical conditions and those of family members had been improved by medical pot – said it was time for Congress to act.

According to a joint statement from Gillibrand, Booker and Paul, the bill would make "overdue reforms" which would "ensure patients – including veterans receiving care from VA facilities in states with medical marijuana programs – access the care they need."

In the District of Columbia and 23 states that have legalized medical pot, the lawmakers say the measure would "allow patients, doctors, and businesses… to participate in those programs without fear of federal prosecution."

For some, action cannot come quickly enough.

Experts estimate that there are more than 1.3 million registered medical marijuana patients nationwide – some of whom have waited for years to gain access to the drug, the Daily Beast reported Tuesday.

The so-called "Cromnibus" bill passed in December barred the Justice Department from taking action against state medical marijuana programs – a provision that Paul, Booker and Gillibrand want to build on with the legislation introduced Tuesday, Politico reported.

(The same legislation includes a provision attached by House Republicans blocking the District of Columbia from implementing its marijuana law, a measure the D.C. government has defied, CBS News reports.)

Public opinion polls show strong popular support for medical marijuana. A national poll conducted last year by the left-of-center group Third Way found that 78 percent of Americans favor allowing individuals to use pot for medical purposes if a doctor recommends it.

But the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warned recently that marijuana can also have some troubling side effects.

In December, NIDA, part of the National Institutes of Health, stated that "thus far, there have not been enough large-scale clinical trials showing that benefits of the marijuana plant (as opposed to specific cannabinoid constituents) outweigh its risks in patients with the symptoms it is meant to treat."

NIDA warned that "the known safety concerns of marijuana include impairment of short-term memory; altered judgment and decision-making; and mood effects, including severe anxiety (paranoia) or even psychosis (loss of touch with reality), especially following high-dose exposures."

It added that "marijuana also significantly reduces motor coordination and slows reaction time, which makes it very dangerous to use before driving a car. Additionally, although we do not yet know whether marijuana smoking contributes to lung cancer risk, it can cause or worsen other respiratory problems such as bronchitis or chronic cough."

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Three senators introduced legislation Tuesday aimed at legalizing medical marijuana.
Rand Paul, Corey Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand
Tuesday, 10 March 2015 03:25 PM
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