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Marijuana Reform Groups Call On U.S. Senate To Hold Hearing On CARERS Act

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marijuana daylin leach senate bill 528 dcTomorrow there will be a hearing held in the Senate in regards to marijuana policy. Before you get too excited, realize that the hearing is already being labeled a ‘sham’ by major marijuana reform groups. Meanwhile the CARERS Act, which is a bipartisan bill that would do a lot of good for suffering patients and for marijuana reform in general, essentially sits on a shelf collecting dust. The sham hearing is drawing a lot of criticism from advocacy groups, and for good reason. Below are press releases put out by the Drug Policy Alliance, National Cannabis Industry Association, and Americans for Safe Access, respectively:

On Tuesday morning, Senator Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Feinstein (D-CA) will hold a hearing in the Caucus on International Narcotics Control titled “Is the Department of Justice Adequately Protecting the Public from the Impact of State Recreational Marijuana Legalization?” The hearing is ostensibly a response to a recent GAO report that criticized DOJ for a lack of oversight of states that have legalized marijuana. However, the hearing is likely to be nothing more than a prohibitionist party.

“These hearings are a one-sided sham with the deck stacked with witnesses who have a track record of vehemently opposing marijuana legalization,” said Michael Collins, Deputy Director at Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “An honest evaluation of marijuana legalization would include the undeniable benefits of legalization like the massive drop in marijuana arrests, the billions in taxes, and the transition from an underground market to a regulated one. A more even-handed hearing would also address the destructive harms of marijuana prohibition.”

Grassley and Feinstein have invited the Attorney General from Nebraska, whose lawsuit against Colorado and its legalization law were recently thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court. Another witness is a board member of notorious anti-marijuana group Project SAM. And another witness  is a U.S. Attorney who has vigorously prosecuted medical marijuana cases in California. Grassley’s own views on marijuana legalization are well-documented. In 2009, he commented that “marijuanais a gateway to harder drug use,” a theory that has been widely debunked.  Grassley has been known for his openness and impartiality on many issues, often allowing witnesses to appear on panels and oppose bills he supports.

Against this backdrop, this hearing is all the more disconcerting.  “Invites to policymakers and experts who have worked in support of marijuana reform must have been lost in the mail,” said Collins.

Grassley’s decision to hold a hearing on marijuana legalization is bizarre given the fact that he is under pressure to hold a hearing and vote in the Judiciary Committee on the bipartisan CARERS Act.  The CARERS Act has broad support and would affirm the right of states to set their own medical marijuana policies, reschedule medical marijuana to Schedule II, enable access to CBD oil, allow banks to provide financial services to marijuana dispensaries, permit VA physicians to recommend medical marijuana to veterans, and eliminate barriers to medical marijuana research. “Grassley should concentrate on issues that affect his state, instead of grandstanding,” said Collins.

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

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The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) today called on Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to respect the will of the voters and bipartisan members of his own committee by holding hearings on the CARERS Act. The CARERS Act is bipartisan legislation, originally introduced by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Rand Paul (R-KY), that would allow patients access to medical marijuana in states where it is legal without fear of federal prosecution and open up new avenues for research into marijuana’s medical potential.

While he continues to obstruct any action to help critically ill patients and the providers who care for them, Senator Grassley is holding a hearing today designed to conjure up outdated prohibitionist fear-mongering.

More than 80% of Americans believe patients should have legal access to medical marijuana. Sen. Grassley could be helping patients in need, supporting legitimate small businesses, and respecting the overwhelming will of the voters,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of NCIA. “Instead, he plays obstructionist again, refusing to even have a conversation about a bill that has the support of Republicans and Democrats alike.

“Sen. Grassley may be stuck in the past, but the rest of us are not. It’s time for him to do his job and hold real hearings on real legislation that could make a real difference for patients and providers across the country.”

In addition to the CARERS Act, Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act also sits bottled up in Sen. Grassley’s Judiciary Committee, despite a recent national AP poll showing that 61% of Americans support the legalization of cannabis.

Source: The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) is the largest cannabis trade association in the U.S. and the only organization representing cannabis-related businesses at the national level. NCIA promotes the growth of a responsible and legitimate cannabis industry and works toward a favorable social, economic, and legal environment for that industry in the United States.

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Americans for Safe Access (ASA), patients across the country are calling on Senate Committee on the Judiciary Chair Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) today to respond to bi-partisan support of the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act (S.683) by holding a hearing and giving the bill a vote.  Today’s renewed calls for passage of the CARERS Act are in response to Chairman Grassley holding yet another lopsided hearing against medical cannabis as none of the witnesses scheduled to testify can speak on the medicinal value.

The announcement last week that Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Caucus on International Narcotics Control, and his Co-chairman Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) will hold a hearing Tuesday, April 5th entitled, “Is the Department of Justice Adequately Protecting the Public from the Impact of State Recreational Marijuana Legalization?,” angered those who have been in frequent discussion with both offices regarding the need for a hearing on the CARERS Act. In addition, according to Senator Grassley’s office, he has received  daily calls from constituents and others requesting that the CARERS Act receive a hearing, and those calls have seemingly been ignored. A February 2016 poll conducted by Seizer & Co. of Des Moines found that 78% of adults in  Senator Grassley’s own state of Iowa support medical cannabis.

“Senator Grassley’s constituents are seeking an end to the federal interference of state medical cannabis programs, including the limited program in his own state,” said ASA Government Affairs Director Mike Liszewski. “The CARERS Act would offer that protection and it’s about time to have a hearing and vote on the bill.”

Tuesday’s hearing will mark the second time during the 114th Session of Congress that Chairman Grassley has convened a Drug Caucus hearing that involved a strong bias against the medicinal compound THC. In June, the Drug Caucus held a hearing on cannabidiol (CBD) to the exclusion of the any planned discussion on the value of THC. Tuesday’s hearing will feature testimony from a board member of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, who opposes rescheduling and the CARERS Act and does not feature any witnesses who can provide a counterpoint view on the medicinal value of cannabis.

The passage of the CARERS Act  would allow state medical marijuana programs to continue without federal interference, allow for greater research, and create medical cannabis access for veterans in states with programs.  The bill has been stalled in the Senate Committee on the Judiciary with no signs of a hearing despite growing support for it among members of the committee, including Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who signed on as a co-sponsor last month.

“With 23 states and the District of Columbia operating medical cannabis programs and another 17 allowing for the use of Cannabidiol (CBD) it is clear the nation deserves a hearing and a vote on CARERS,”  said ASA’s executive director, Seph Sherer. “This hearing is yet another attempt to avoid dealing with the medical issue head-on.”

While the hearing will be focusing on harms associated with cannabis, it is doubtful that the findings of studies assessing harms that have shown cannabis as one of the safest class of medical compounds will be presented.  These findings are outlined in ASA’s Cannabis and Cannabis Resin Critical Review Preparation Document submitted to the United Nations for inclusion in the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem to be held in April.
Further Information:

Source: With over 100,000 active members in all 50 states, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots actions, advocacy and services for patients and caregivers.

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