HR 1983, the State’s Medical Marijuana Protection Act of 2011, introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), explicitly states it will exempt people complying with state medical marijuana laws from federal arrest and prosecution.
Officially titled “To provide for the rescheduling of marijuana and for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the laws of the various states”, the measure also calls for an immediate rescheduling review by the federal government that would reclassify cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III under the federal Controlled Substances Act, officially recognizing the plant’s accepted medical use and streamlining the federal approval process for medical marijuana research. It is cosponsored by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Rep. Fortney Stark (D-CA). and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).
“The time has come for the federal government to stop preempting states’ medical marijuana laws,” Frank said. “For the federal government to come in and supersede state law is a real mistake for those in pain for whom nothing else seems to work. This bill would block the federal prosecution of those patients who reside in those states that allow medical marijuana.”
Sixteen states – Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington – and the District of Columbia have enacted laws protecting medical cannabis patients and often their providers from state prosecution. However, in all of these states, patients and providers still face the risk of federal sanction – even when their actions are fully compliant with state law.
Medical cannabis patients should feel safe from federal threats whether they are cultivating their own medicine, picking it up at a dispensary etc. When dispensaries are shut down, or gardens get plowed by the DEA, the real losers are the ill people using medical cannabis in order to treat their conditions. Often times these patients have already paid hundreds of dollars to be registered with the state, only to have the feds squash their efforts. Imagine having your local pharmacy getting shut down, terrorist style, leaving you without safe access to quality medicine. HR 1983 would provide the protection these patients need and deserve.
The time, money, and manpower spent by local, state, and federal authorities, to harass and prosecute medical cannabis patients is staggering, especially considering budget concerns in all parts of the U.S. In many states where medical cannabis laws have been passed, local municipalities have been collecting millions of dollars in taxes. So let’s see, less money out, more money in… HR 1983 absolutely makes sense for community budgets.
In states where dispensaries are allowed to operate, the cost of opening one can be staggering. Regulations in states, such as Colorado, can push the cost into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is nothing new, there is always a cost to do business, but the difference between dispensary owners and most business owners is the constant threat of DEA raids and asset forfeiture. These operators are most often good people who really want to be an accepted part of the community, yet the federal government considers them drug dealers using it’s influence to manipulate local governments to go against the will of the voters. Add the legal costs to fight for your right to operate and I wonder how these people are able to stay open? Passing HR 1983 would allow them to fully integrate into communities without constant federal harassment.
The known benefits of medical cannabis are a proven reality and how many more unknown benefits could be discovered if legitimate research could be done openly. Just look to Israel as an example. Since their government loosened the restrictions on cannabis research, a couple real quality studies are in the works. It’s no secret research and development is expensive. Passing this resolution would help entrepreneurs feel far more comfortable about investing capital in cannabis research once they don’t have to worry about the Feds kicking down the door. Imagine if we could isolate each of the hundreds of psychoactive components contained in the cannabis plant and test each one for potential ways to treat incurable diseases and conditions. Do we really want all this work to be done overseas? What about all the potential high paying research jobs this could create? H. R. 1983 would help make cannabis safer and create jobs here in the United States.
As a cannabis law reform and legalization advocate, I can appreciate what enacting this resolution has to offer. I personally see the biggest hurdle for marijuana law reform as breaking the decades old negative stereotypes created by the government propaganda machine. If people where allowed to use medical cannabis and the public saw crime rates fall and heard miracle cancer stories, maybe it could change their perceptions. Additionally, many people who use medical cannabis recreationally might actually be using it for medical reasons and just don’t know they are. Depression, anxiety, and other conditions often go undiagnosed, often leaving people to “self-medicate” on their own.
Bottom line, this bill doesn’t have many glaring problems and if your state doesn’t have a medical cannabis law, then it doesn’t really effect you anyway. The bill is currently in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, chaired by Rep. Frederick Upton; it was assigned to the Subcommittee on Health and hasn’t budged since. Contact your congressman and tell them to co-sponsor the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act now!
Here’s a great video from friend of the blog, Jay Selthofner talking about HR 1983
And here’s a link to the full text of the bill: