By Melissa Wilcox
Today, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) delivered a letter on behalf of 13 patient-based organizations to Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representatives Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Gene Green (D-TX) urging them to give the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act (S.683, H.R. 1583) a vote in the United States Senate Judiciary Committee and House Committee on Energy and Commerce: Subcommittee on Health, respectively. The letter was signed by Americans for Safe Access, Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE), Danny Did Foundation, Epilepsy Foundation, Finding a Cure for Epilepsy and Seizures (FACES), Hope4Harper, Hope for Hypothalamic Hamartomas, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS) Foundation, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, National Women’s Health Network, Realm of Caring, The Michael J. Fox Foundation, and Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.
Today more than 300 million Americans live in states that are implementing medical cannabis laws in conflict with federal law. The passage of the CARERS Act would allow state medical cannabis programs to continue without federal interference, move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II in the Controlled Substances Act, remove the cannabis-derived compound cannabidiol (CBD) entirely from the schedule, create access to banking services for medical cannabis businesses in states where it is legal, eliminate the DEA-mandated “NIDA-monopoly” on cannabis available for research, and allow Veterans Health Administration physicians to write recommendations in states that have established a medical cannabis program.
“The Epilepsy Foundation strongly supports the CARERS Act and we thank all the members of Congress who have signed on to this important legislation,” said Phil Gattone, president & CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation. “Lifting federal barriers to cannabis research would allow families and providers considering this treatment option to have the information they need to make educated decisions, while supporting safe, legal access to medical cannabis.”
Support for the CARERS Act has been gaining momentum in both houses. Senate Judiciary Committee members Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Al Franken (D-MN) recently joined the Senate version as co-sponsors and last week, Congressman David Young (R-IA) joined the House version as a co-sponsor.
“This letter represents the growing number of voices in the patient community joining the call for committee leaders to allow the CARERS Act a committee vote,” stated Beth Collins, Senior Director of Government Relations and External Affairs for ASA. “We urge Senator Grassley and Representative Pitts to listen to the many Americans who support medical cannabis and the more than 2 million people who already benefit from cannabis as a treatment option by giving CARERS an opportunity for a vote.”
The letter comes on the eve of Senator Lindsey Graham’s Senate hearing, Researching the Potential Medical Benefits and Risks in the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism. Patients and activists are encouraged by Senator Graham’s interest in moving this issue forward, and hope that Senator Grassley and Representative Pitts will allow the CARERS Act a committee vote.