This May Be the End for the CARERS Act

Published on December 11, 2015 · Last updated July 28, 2020

Well, you may have seen it coming but you might not have guessed when, but the end is nigh for the CARERS Act.

The bipartisan piece of legislation was one of the best chances for the United States to reclassify cannabis as a non-Schedule I class drug. It would have recognized states’ rights in regulating medical marijuana programs, removed CBD entirely from the Controlled Substances Act, and reconciled federal banking issues in the legal marijuana industry.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) serves as Chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, and despite him taking steps to remove barriers from research on the benefits of cannabidiol, and statements from him that scientific and medical evaluation of CBD is “long overdue," it appears that he will be the one to strike the final blow to the CARERS Act.

Admittedly, his resistance has been quite passive. Thus far, he has simply refused to hold a hearing on the CARERS Act, killing the bill through inaction. A statement from his office clarified Senator Grassley’s stance:

“I oppose moving marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug, based on the current science on the risks and benefits…For children suffering from severe epileptic seizures, the anecdotal evidence says components of the marijuana plant might help. I want to help those children. The key is aggressive medical research.”

This sort of commonplace “help-the-children” mentality is problematic for a number of reasons. Yes, there are many children with seizure disorders who could benefit from the use of cannabidiol. However, for every child that could benefit from a CBD regimen, there are thousands of other potential patients who would benefit from the use of the whole plant. Are we to simply overlook these patients?

This attitude is also flawed because this bill in particular strongly encourages medical research. In fact, rescheduling cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II is specifically to remove strict barriers for scientific and medical research. It is painfully hypocritical to demand “aggressive medical research” while actively opposing a bill that written with medical research in mind.

While this news marks another strike against federal cannabis policy reform, it's not nearly the end. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders also introduced a separate bill to overhaul federal cannabis policy that would remove all mentions of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, as a part of his campaign platform to end cannabis prohibition. It goes without saying, however, that this bill likely depends on the outcome of the Democratic primary and whether he wins the Democratic nomination.

The CARERS Act may not be the bill to end prohibition, but its very existence exemplifies the increasingly mainstream inclination towards marijuana in general society. This is hardly the end of the fight for legalization; rather, it's only the beginning.

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Lisa Rough
Lisa Rough
Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.
View Lisa Rough's articles
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