First Look at New Marijuana Bills in Congress

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Two new bills to reform federal marijuana laws were just introduced in Congress, and MassRoots has an exclusive first look at the proposals.

Both sponsored by Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA), H.R. 714 and H.R. 715 would reschedule cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The first bill, also known as the Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marijuana Act (LUMA), would simply move cannabis from its status under Schedule I — the most restrictive drug category under federal law — to Schedule II. It would also ensure that provisions of the CSA would not “prohibit or otherwise restrict” state-authorized use, possession, transportation, production and distribution of medical marijuana.

The second bill, the Compassionate Access Act, is broader in scope, and is cosponsored by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). It also reschedules marijuana but doesn’t mandate a move to Schedule II specifically, leaving the door open for cannabis to be placed even lower in the CSA.

The bill also excludes cannabidiol (CBD) from the federal definition of marijuana, specifying that it is not to be treated as a controlled substance. Like LUMA, the legislation includes protections for state-authorized medical marijuana activities, but it adds further language covering parents or guardians of minors who are authorized patients and also has a provision covering marijuana testing labs.

Additionally, the legislation requires the Department of Justice to move authority for access to research-grade cannabis “to an agency of the Executive Branch that is not focused on researching the addictive properties of substances.” That’s a thinly-veiled dig at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which currently has such authority but has been repeatedly criticized for favoring studies on marijuana’s potential harms instead of its medical benefits.

The bill specifies that research done in accordance with state laws can be taken into account for future rescheduling decisions even if those studies did not use cannabis from federally-approved sources.

Both of Griffith’s new bills use the federally-loaded word “prescription” to qualify the type of state-legal medical marijuana activities that are protected, but define the term to mean “an instruction written by a medical physician in accordance with applicable State law,” indicating that current medical cannabis recommendations in accordance with state programs would likely qualify.

“There are countless reports of marijuana’s medicinal benefits in treating conditions including cancer, epilepsy and glaucoma,” Griffith said in a statement. “It is time to research this further, and, where legal, to allow real doctors and real pharmacists to prescribe or dispense marijuana for legitimate medical reasons for real patients.”

Blumenauer added, “For too long our federal marijuana policies have failed the American people. It’s past time for a change. The Compassionate Access Act will bring us closer to making sure federal law does not get in the way of doctors, researchers and business owners working to provide safer access to patients.”

Neither bill has yet been scheduled for a hearing or a vote.

These are the second and third pieces of marijuana legislation introduced so far in the new 115th Congress. The first was a proposal from Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), in partnership with Blumenauer and a handful of other members, to protect properties and assets from being seized by the federal government just because they are involved with state-legal medical cannabis activities.

Many more marijuana bills are expected to be introduced on Capitol Hill in the coming weeks, and we’ll be here to keep you informed as details emerge.

 Source:  MassRoots
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