GM 15-023

Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced

On March 11, 2015, Senators Booker (D-NJ), Gillibrand (D-NY) and Paul (R-KY) introduced the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act as S 683. The bill, which was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, would legalize medical marijuana under federal law when it is legal under state law and would aid veterans’ access to medical marijuana under state law.

The bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to legalize medical marijuana under federal law when it is legal under state law. Pursuant to the amendment, CSA provisions related to marijuana would not apply to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, laboratory testing, or delivery of medical marijuana when carried out in compliance with state law. Thus, it would recognize states’ responsibility and authority to set medical marijuana policy.

In states where medical marijuana is legal, the bill would accommodate veterans’ access to medical marijuana. The bill would authorize Department of Veterans Affairs health care providers to give resident veterans forms reflecting the health care providers’ recommendation that the veteran participate in the state marijuana program.

The bill would also take other steps to recognize and sanction marijuana’s medical uses. First, it would change marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II controlled substance under the CSA. Second, it would make legal in certain circumstances cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychotropic derivative of marijuana used to treat seizure and epilepsy disorders. Third, it would require the Drug Enforcement Administration to issue licenses for the manufacture of marijuana for research.

Not limited to medical marijuana, the CARERS bill would protect financial institutions that provide services to marijuana-related businesses engaged in activity legal under state law. The bill would create a safe harbor for depository institutions by prohibiting federal banking regulators from taking certain actions meant to deter provision of services, including limiting or terminating deposit insurance. It would also protect depository institutions from federal criminal prosecution, penalty, or forfeiture of loan collateral, and it would formally incorporate the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) reporting guidance from the Treasury Department’s February 14, 2014, FinCEN Memorandum. However, because the bill does not expressly include tribes in the definition of a “state”, the bill does not appear to extend protection to financial institutions providing services to marijuana-related businesses operating under tribal law.

Please let us know if we may provide further information on the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act.