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New Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced Aims To Make Federal Policy Harder To Maintain

Last Monday, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and a bipartisan coalition of 13 co-sponsors drafted a bill intended to curb federal interference in state legalized medical marijuana use.

House Resolution 689, otherwise known as the State’s Medical Marijuana Patients Protection Act, is the latest effort by supporters to enact new federal guidelines surrounding the enforcement of medical marijuana laws currently on the books. At issue is the line separating states’ rights from the long arm of the federal government.

“[HR689] Provides for the rescheduling of marijuana and for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the laws of the various states.”

The bill’s language “provides for the rescheduling of marijuana and for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the laws of the various states.” It mandates the DEA and Department of Health and Human Services reschedule marijuana to a schedule other than Schedule I or II.

Schedule I, the present placement for marijuana, is reserved for substances with a high danger of abuse and “no currently accepted medical treatment in the United States.” Schedule II drugs have lower abuse potential and some accepted medical uses. Schedules III, IV and V, where the bill calls for marijuana to be placed, have some accepted medical use and “moderate to low,” “low,” and “lower” abuse potential.

Resolution 689 Will Get The Fed’s Out Of ‘Never-Never Land’

Resolution 689 would also bar the use of the Controlled Substance Act to “prohibit or otherwise restrict” medical marijuana prescribing or recommending where it is legal. In essence, the bill would allow states to create their own marijuana laws. Fogginess over the distinction between states’ rights and federal law has clouded the medical marijuana issue and led to increased tension and conflict between the two divisions of government.

“Frankly, the people in the federal bureaucracy are in an impossible position. The bill gets the federal government and the Department of Justice out of this never-never land.”– Rep. Earl Blumenauer

“This means the 19 jurisdictions that permit medical marijuana are operating in a patchwork of inconsistent local and federal laws,” says Blumenauer. “These inconsistencies create significant challenges for both patients and the businesses working to provide access to medical marijuana. Frankly, the people in the federal bureaucracy are in an impossible position. The bill gets the federal government and the Department of Justice out of this never-never land.”

Under the new guidelines, growers would receive a federal license in states with legalized marijuana laws. Enforcement duties would switch from the DEA to a renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms. Additionally, marijuana would be regulated and taxed in the same manner as alcohol.

Although the bill’s sponsors, including Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Ca), are not optimistic about the resolution passing, supporters are feeling good about its chances citing recent legalization laws in CO and WA.

“For the first time, the wind is behind our back,” adds Bill Piper, a director at the Drug Policy Alliance.

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