Activists push for medical marijuana on Capitol Hill
November 03, 2017 | Geoff Marshall
By Alana Austin for WLIX
"I have children that one day may have cancer and I don't want them popping pills all the time. This is 100 percent better alternative," - Amy Catterton
WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- A Republican Congressman from Florida continues pushing for more access to medical marijuana. He - and a group of activists on Capitol Hill today - argue there are too many barriers in the way of patients receiving treatment. Others say legal changes should proceed with caution.
Amy Catterton and her husband traveled from North Carolina to Washington, DC Wednesday. Catterton - who has battled breast and bone cancer - says compared to other opiates she was prescribed, cannabis made the biggest difference in managing symptoms.
"My quality of life has changed," said Catterton.
Catterton came to the Capitol with advocates from Americans for Safe Access and the U.S. Pain Foundation. These activists believe Congress should remove hurdles to medical marijuana.
"I have children that one day may have cancer and I don't want them popping pills all the time. This is 100 percent better alternative," said Catterton.
Florida GOP Congressman Matt Gaetz says the federal government should make it easier for researchers to study cannabis.
"The federal government has lied to the American people for a generation about marijuana, saying that in no circumstance can it ever be medicine. That's just not true," said Gaetz.
Earlier this year, Gaetz introduced a bill that would make the Drug Enforcement Agency classify marijuana as a less dangerous substance.
Right now, it's categorized on par with heroin and LSD.
"I'm fighting for real research opportunities so that we could get past some of the antiquated dogmas," said Gaetz.
Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) expresses concerns on proposed legal changes to cannabis.
"The question is what's the right public policy and I don't think that simply rescheduling marijuana and changing the designations on marijuana and allowing a free-for-all is the right way to do it," said Sabet, president and co-founder of SAM.
Sabet says marijuana could unlock medical solutions for sick Americans, but he urges lawmakers and regulators take a cautious approach. He also argues many researchers are examining marijuana but they might lack funding.
"We have to ensure that what everybody is getting is something that has some oversight," said Sabet.
While dozens of states have opened the door to medical marijuana - in some form or fashion, that's all technically in violation of federal law.
In Washington, I'm Alana Austin.