Congress Introduces HR 2835, The Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act

June 12, 2009
Washington, D.C. -- In another effort to change federal policy on medical marijuana, Congressional Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the "Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act," HR 2835, late yesterday. The bill, which was co-sponsored by 13 bipartisan Members of Congress at the time of introduction, would change federal policy on medical marijuana in a number of ways. Specifically, the Act would change marijuana from a Schedule I drug, classified as having no medical value, to a Schedule II drug, which would recognize marijuana's medical efficacy and create a regulatory framework for the FDA to begin a drug approval process for marijuana. The act would also prevent interference by the federal government in any local or state run medical marijuana program.

Although similar versions of the Act have been introduced in previous Congressional terms, the Obama Administration's willingness to change federal policy on medical marijuana creates a new political context and may facilitate passage of this important legislation. "We are encouraged by the federal government's willingness to address this issue and to bring about a more sensible and humane policy on medical marijuana," said Caren Woodson, Government Affairs Director with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a nationwide advocacy group working with the Obama Administration, Representative Frank and other Members of Congress to change federal policy. "It's time to recognize marijuana's medical efficacy, and to develop a comprehensive plan that will provide access to medical marijuana and protection for the hundreds of thousands of sick Americans that benefit from its use."

In addition to rescheduling marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), HR 2835 would provide protection from the CSA and the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) for qualified patients and caregivers in states that have legalized the use of medical marijuana. Specifically, the act prevents the CSA and FDCA from prohibiting or restricting: (1) a physician from prescribing or recommending marijuana for medical use, (2) an individual from obtaining, possessing, transporting within their state, manufacturing, or using marijuana in accordance with their state law, (3) an individual authorized under State law from obtaining, possessing, transporting within their state, or manufacturing marijuana on behalf of an authorized patient, or (4) an entity authorized under local or State law to distribute medical marijuana to authorized patients from obtaining, possessing, or distributing marijuana to such authorized patients.

The Obama Administration has made repeated statements that it intends to end federal enforcement against medical marijuana, but has yet to provide a detailed plan of implementation. A lack of clarity on this policy change has prompted Congress to take action. In addition to the introduction of Frank's bill yesterday, Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) introduced language Tuesday within the Commerce, Justice and Science Departments (CJS) Appropriations bill seeking clarification on the Administration's policy. "It's imperative that the federal government respect states' rights and stay out of the way of patients with debilitating diseases such as cancer who are using medical marijuana in accordance with state law to alleviate their pain," said Hinchey in a press release issued Tuesday.

Further information:
Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, HR 2835: http://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/HR2835.pdf

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