Commentary

Could marijuana policy be one area on which the right and left finally find some common ground?

Marijuana legalizationThose desperately seeking some hopeful news from the divided world of modern American politics will find a measure of it in an article published yesterday by John Hudak of the Brooking Institution. In “Why the CARERS Act is so significant for marijuana policy reform,” Hudak explores the growing bipartisan movement to remove existing federal roadblocks to the safe and sane implementation of medical marijuana policies in nearly two dozen states.

“CARERS” is the acronym that’s been developed for the “Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act.” This is from Hudak’s article:

“CARERS, as its name implies, addressed policy challenges in a variety of areas, involving a variety of stakeholders. It seeks to protect patient access in states with existing medical marijuana programs from federal intervention. The current state of policy offers patient protection through an informal agreement with the Obama administration. CARERS codifies the collection of Justice Department memos that currently duct tapes together federal marijuana policy.

CARERS also expands opportunities for medical and scientific researchers to study marijuana and its therapeutic uses. The legislation makes it easier for researchers to be registered and approved to study the drug and reduces some of the currently onerous rules research institutions must follow in order for marijuana studies to be conducted on their campuses. The bill also breaks down the current DEA-mandated, NIDA-contracted monopoly on the production of research-grade marijuana by expanding the number of federal government-approved grow operations.

CARERS, among its other provisions, seeks to specifically address two of the biggest challenges the current federal framework poses for state-level medical marijuana systems: veterans’ access and banking issues. The legislation would allow (not require) VA doctors—only in states with legal medical marijuana programs—to recommend medical marijuana to wounded warriors who qualify under a state’s laws. In addition, CARERS transforms current federal banking laws that would allow cannabis enterprises in medical marijuana states to have access to traditional banking services. Those reforms would lower costs to businesses (and thus consumers), shift the medical marijuana market away from its current cash-only system, and ultimately increase the safety that financial products provide firms and customers.”

What makes the proposal even more promising than its substance, however, is the bipartisan support it enjoys. Again, here’s Hudak:

“After CARERS was proposed in the Senate, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced companion legislation in the House. One glance at both bills’ supporters shows how unique these proposals are. In an era—and in a city—that is characterized by antipathy across parties, hyperpolarization, and seemingly unending gridlock, marijuana has an interesting effect on Congress: it brings lawmakers together.

In the Senate for instance, Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is joined by 17 cosponsors. Those cosponsors hail from 13 states from all corners of the country. They include states with robust medical marijuana programs and ones that have been loathe to reform state policy in this area. The cosponsors include three Republicans, one Independent, and 13 Democrats. One other interesting aspects of this group involves presidential candidates….

In the House, CARERS’ original sponsor, Steve Cohen, has been joined by 31 cosponsors. They hail from 18 states and include representatives from D.C. and Guam. In the House, there is greater bipartisanship support for the legislation. Nineteen Democrats join 12 of their Republican colleagues in supporting the bill”

Let’s hope the good spirit evidenced in these proposals continues to flourish. And who knows? If the CARERS Act actually becomes law at some point, perhaps it will help usher an era of even better relations, reduced stress and lowered tensions amongst Americans of all political stripes — at least in 23 states.

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