The new Congress just started and there’s already a bipartisan marijuana bill
Marijuana Moment is a wire service assembled by Tom Angell, a marijuana legalization activist and journalist covering marijuana reform nationwide. The views expressed by Angell or Marijuana Moment are neither endorsed by the Globe nor do they reflect the Globe’s views on any subject area.
The 116th Congress just went into session this week, and a bipartisan marijuana reform bill has already been introduced in the House.
US Representatives Steve Cohen and Don Young re-introduced the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act on Thursday as one of their first acts in the new session. The legislation would let states establish their own medical cannabis programs free of federal intervention and also allow physicians at the Department of Veterans Affairs to issue medical cannabis recommendations for veterans.
“The national consensus on medical marijuana is solid and bipartisan, but our federal drug laws continue to treat patients and their doctors like criminals,” Cohen said in a press release. “Our bill would bring federal medical marijuana policy in line with the views of the overwhelming majority of Americans by allowing states to set their own marijuana laws, allowing patients, including veterans, to receive the treatments they need from their doctors and improving opportunities for research on marijuana.”
Young said that the bill represents “the kind of bipartisan effort that doesn’t happen every day but should serve as an example of how we can solve the problems that our constituents have sent us here to do.”
“I’m hopeful that this is going to be a productive Congress regarding the debate over national cannabis policy.”
The CARERS Act was first introduced in 2015 and again in 2017 —
by Cohen in the House and Senator Cory Booker, of New Jersey, in the Senate. During the 114th Congress, Cohen’s bill received 43 cosponsors, and during the last session, it had 30 cosponsors. The Senate bill also saw a lower number of cosponsors last Congress than in the prior one, perhaps a reflection that its backers have in the intervening years focused more on building support for now-achievable broader marijuana reform instead of the narrowly tailored medical cannabis fix.
Asked for a copy of the new bill’s text, Cohen communication director Bartholomew Sullivan referred Marijuana Moment to the prior version. The spokesperson did not immediately respond to a follow up question about whether the pieces of legislation are identical or if this new version differs, as was the case for past versions; the 114th Congress’s bill included provisions touching on rescheduling and banking access for cannabis businesses, but those were removed last time.
Booker is also quoted in Cohen’s press release, saying that existing “federal marijuana laws are broken — they don’t make us safer, they waste taxpayer dollars, and they lack both common sense and compassion.”
The senator’s communications director told Marijuana Moment that the new version of the CARERS Act hasn’t yet been filed in the Senate but that it will be introduced “soon.”