A Sensible Bill on Medical Marijuana
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A Sensible Bill on Medical Marijuana
Posted by CN Staff on March 11, 2015 at 04:55:53 PT
New York Times Editorial
Source: New York Times
Washington, D.C. -- Three senators, two Democrats and a Republican, introduced a bill on Tuesday that would allow patients to use marijuana for medical purposes in states where it is legal, without fear of federal prosecution for violating narcotics laws.The bill makes a number of important changes to federal marijuana policies — and it deserves to be passed by Congress and enacted into law. Though this legislation would not repeal the broad and destructive federal ban on marijuana, it is a big step in the right direction.
The most important change would reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which is intended for drugs, like heroin, that have no accepted medical use in the United States, and place it instead in Schedule II, the classification for drugs that have a legitimate medical use but also have a “high potential for abuse.”The Schedule I classification made no sense because there is a medical consensus that patients with AIDS, cancer, epilepsy and serious degenerative conditions can benefit from marijuana. And millions of patients have used marijuana to relieve pain, nausea, appetite loss, insomnia and seizures associated with various illnesses.The bill, sponsored by Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, both Democrats, and Rand Paul, a Republican of Kentucky, would not legalize medical marijuana in all 50 states. But it would amend federal law to allow states to set their own medical marijuana policies and prevent federal law enforcement agencies from prosecuting patients, doctors and caregivers in those states. Currently 35 states and the District of Columbia permit some form of medical marijuana use. States would remain free to ban medical marijuana if they wished.Other important provisions would allow banks and credit unions to provide financial services to marijuana-related businesses that operate in accord with state law and protect them from federal prosecution or investigation. That is a crucial improvement over the current situation where marijuana business that is legal under state law is conducted in cash because financial institutions fear to step in.The bill would also allow doctors in the Department of Veterans Affairs to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans, which they are currently prohibited from doing. And it would ease the overly strict procedures for obtaining marijuana for medical research and require the Food and Drug Administration to more readily allow the manufacture of marijuana for research.An encouraging development last year may bode well for enactment of the legislation this year. A surprisingly strong bipartisan majority in the House voted for a one-year provision barring the Justice Department from using its funds to prevent states from carrying out their own laws authorizing the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.The provision was approved by a vote of 219 to 189, with 49 Republicans and 170 Democrats voting in favor. The Senate adopted the same provision and President Obama signed it into law.Polls show a majority of Americans in favor of legalization of medical marijuana. It is long past time for Congress to recognize the need to change course.Correction: March 11, 2015: An earlier version of this editorial misstated the day that a bill to allow patients to use marijuana for medical purposes was introduced. It was on Tuesday, not Monday.A version of this editorial appears in print on March 11, 2015, on page A24 of the New York edition with the headline: A Sensible Bill on Medical Marijuana Source: New York Times (NY)Published: March 11, 2015Copyright: 2015 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives
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