CARERS Act would fix US Controlled Substances, banking, research laws

The CARERS Act- S. 683- would fix federal banking rules and reschedule cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act. Senate Democrat Cory Booker of New York introduced the bill with bipartisan support from Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Democrat Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

“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. “Doctors and patients deserve federal laws that are fair and compassionate, and states should be able to set their own medical marijuana policies without federal interference.”

Broad support for CARERS Act

According to the press release published by Senator Rand Paul’s office:

US cannabis policyThe CARERS Act has the support of more than 20 health, veteran and policy organizations, including:American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Safe Access, Compassionate Care NY, Coalition for Medical Marijuana NJ, Drug Policy Alliance, Housing Works, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Marijuana Policy Project, MS Resources of Central New York, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, NY Physicians for Compassionate Care, Parents Coalition for Rescheduling Medical Cannabis, Patients Out of Time, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, The American Cannabis Nurses Association, The Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester, Third Way, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, Veterans for Peace and Veterans for Safe Access and Compassionate Care.

Restoring States’ Rights

S. 683, the CARERS Act, would restored states’ rights by amending Section 708 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 903) to enable individual states to make and enforce their own laws for cannabis without fear of prosecution from federal law enforcement agencies. The would provide important protections to patients, physicians, caregivers, dispensaries, cultivators, and others industry participants, including.

Rescheduling of Controlled Substances Act

S.683 would also amend the US Controlled Substances Act to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II substance. Presently marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, a status assigned only to highly addictive and dangerous substances which have no accepted medical use.

Rescheduling cannabis as a Schedule II substance would recognize cannabis does have legitimate accepted medical uses. Rescheduling could be expected to ease physicians’ worries about exposure to legal liability when recommending medicines derived from cannabis.

Providing Veterans Access

Another effect of the CARERS Act would be allow Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors to recommend medical cannabis to military veterans. Presently VA doctors are prohibited from certifying patients to use medicines derived from cannabis.

Excluding Cannabidiol from Controlled Substances Act

Kentucky Senator marijuana legislation

Republican Senator Rand Paul supports cannabis reform

The CARERS Act would exclude cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act’s definition of “marihuana.” Removing cannabidiol as a controlled substance would make it easier for patients to obtain genetic strains of cannabis and derived medicines) that have high ratios of cannabidiol relative to other cannabinoids.

If enacted, the federal definition for “cannabidiol” would read:

The term ‘cannabidiol’ means the substance cannabidiol, as derived from marihuana or the synthetic formulation, that contains not greater that 0.3 percent delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on a dry weight basis.”

S683 would also enable states to establish their own definition for cannabidiol:

If a person grows or processes Cannabis sativa L. for purposes of making cannabidiol in accordance with State law, the Cannabis sativa L. shall be deemed to meet the concentration limitation under section 102(57), unless the Attorney General determines that the State law is not reasonably calculated to comply with section 102(57).

The effect of this latter provision would be to allow states to import CBD if they do not already have the capacity to produce enough internally to treat their patient population.

Enabling Financial Services and Banking

The CARERS Act would provide a safe harbor to banks and credit unions so that they may feel more comfortable providing financial services to licensed cannabis businesses that comply with state law. The intended effect is to make it easier for licensesd businesses to to obtain checking accounts and other basic financial services so that their operations are not conducted solely in cash currency.

The CARERS ACT also clarifies that depository institutions that provide financial services to licensed cannabis businesses shall be immune from Federal criminal prosecution or investigation, shall not be subject to criminal penalty, and shall not subject forfeiture for providing loans.

Expanded research opportunities

The US CARERS Act would also remove what Senator Paul’s office called “unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles for researchers to gain government approval to undertake important research on marijuana.” The bill would require the Attorney General and Drug Enforcement Administration to issue at least three licenses to manufacture cannabis and derived medicines for research approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).