Medical Cannabis Advocates and CARERS Act Sponsors Hold Senate Briefing Urging Immediate Protection for Patients

June 21, 2016 | Melissa Wilcox

Washington, D.C. - Today, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) presented a briefing on the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act (S. 683/H.R. 1538) with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The briefing featured policy experts and medical cannabis (marijuana) stakeholders who would be protected by the bill. Lead CARERS Act sponsor Senator Cory Booker spoke on behalf of the bill as well. The group urged Congress to take swift action to protect existing medical cannabis programs and the patients that rely upon them by passing the CARERS Act, a bill that is currently awaiting a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Even though some form of medical marijuana is already legal in 42 states, federal law still makes it a crime to use this form of medicine, even in states where it is legal,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This is clearly a case of antiquated ideology getting in the way of scientific progress. I will continue to urge all of my colleagues in the Senate to support the CARERS Act, so we can help our families have access to the medicine they need without fear of arrest.”

“The recent discussion about lifting the federal barriers to medical cannabis research is an encouraging signal, but we must remember that there are millions of patients in the U.S. who need medical cannabis today,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of ASA. “Patients should not suffer while waiting for the fruit of this research, which may take years or even decades to accomplish.”

Among the speakers today was Christine Stenquist, a medical cannabis patient from Ogden, UT, who has lobbied for medical cannabis legislation in Utah for the past two years. While Utah has a limited law that protects patients  in possession of low-THC cannabis extracts, these products do not offer medical relief from Christine’s condition. 

Additional speakers included Utah State Senator Mark Madsen and Washington, D.C. dispensary operator, Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn. Senator Madsen shared a personal story about the dangers of prescription opioids and how current federal law is keeping states like his from doing more to protect patients. Rabbi Kahn spoke on how the current federal banking policy for medical cannabis businesses is harming patients by driving up the cost of their medicine and forcing them to make their purchases in cash. The CARERS Act would address these issues.

“I am more convinced than ever that the CARERS Act is a necessary complement to efforts like ours in Utah to bring relief to the sick and suffering among us”, remarked state Senator Mark Madsen (R-UT).  “It goes a long way to removing obstacles, both rhetorical and real, upon which opponents to these compassionate policies rely.” 

On Wednesday, State Senator Madsen and Ms. Stenquist will be holding meetings with several House and Senate offices to urge lawmakers to end the conflict between state and federal medical cannabis laws by supporting passage of the CARERS Act. They are available for interviews on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

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