By Amber Iris Langston
Last month we told you about a new bi-partisan bill in the US Senate (S.683) dubbed the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act, which would change the federal status of cannabis to Schedule II from Schedule I, and open up a host of opportunities related to marijuana. This act would allow VA doctors to discuss options with patients, address issues related to banking and taxes, and finally pave the way for much-needed, federally-sponsored medical application research.
Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) have both since joined Senators Booker (D-NJ), Gellibrand (D-NY) and Paul (R-KY) as lead co-sponsors of the bill.
In addition, a companion bill has been introduced in the House (HR 1538) and has been filed by co-sponsors Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK). Since its introduction, several more sponsors have jumped on board, and hopefully more are yet to come. The newest sponsors include Reps. Jon Conyers (D-MI), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Duncan Hunter (R-CA) Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Eleanor Norton (D-DC), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).
Last week, I joined an impressive group of about 100 patients, caregivers and professionals from Americans for Safe Access on DC’s Capitol Hill to ask for co-sponsorship on this issue. In all of my years visiting legislators in our nation’s policy hub, I have never seen such a serious and thoughtful response to dealing with the cannabis issue. Meanwhile, back in Missouri, HB 800 – albeit a questionable piece of legislation for medical cannabis – passed out of executive committee and will soon be heard on the House floor of the Missouri General Assembly, which is a historic first. And in Branson, Senator Claire McCaskill publicly acknowledged the benefits of medical marijuana in a senior citizens’ town hall event.
While politicians will rarely look a patient in the face and say, “I don’t sympathize with your situation’, the willingness to lead on legislation has been hard to find. Now, with hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and nearly half of the country living in some sort of medical marijuana system, the pressure is on to fix this broken system. While I did not walk away with any lead sponsor signatures for Missouri, that doesn’t mean they won’t happen in the next few weeks if we citizens let them know how important their support is.
Fortunately you don’t have to fly to Washington, DC in order to express your thoughts on this issue. You can call, write, email, and most importantly, you can visit in person right here in Missouri! Legislators almost never have time to actually meet their constituents in face-to-face meetings and rely largely on their staff members to inform them about important priorities. All federal representatives keep offices in their home districts, and our Senators Blunt and McCaskill each have staff available for you in Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Kansas City, Saint Louis and Springfield. Contact information is available on all legislators’ websites. Don’t forget to go to your meeting prepared. Ask your Representative and Senators to co-sponsor these bills, and please send us an email to let us know how it goes!
Of course, we are also happy to represent all of you on behalf of Show-Me Cannabis. It is truly an amazing thing to walk into an office and say, “I’m here on behalf of thousands of Missourians who have shown their support for this cause.’ Right now is an especially busy time for our effort. If you can spare $50, $100 or $250 to help us push toward victory, we can keep representing you in these vitally important conversations!