Bioethics Blogs

In The Spirit Of Spring Break

It’s almost spring break here at Stanford, and in that vein, I thought I’d talk about a topic that is likely to be on at least a few spring breakers’ minds: marijuana.* Last week, a bipartisan trio – Senators Booker, Gillibrand, and Paul – proposed the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, which has been described as the “first ever” Senate bill to “legalize” medical marijuana.

Although in recent years there have been numerous state efforts aimed at legalizing medical marijuana, federal action is needed to truly legalize it. This is because federal law trumps conflicting state law. And the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) prohibits the possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana, including for medicinal purposes, and classifies marijuana as a “Schedule I” drug—a drug with no currently acceptable medical use and a high potential for abuse.

The CARERS Act would change this approach to regulating marijuana. To accomplish its purpose of “extend[ing] the principle of federalism to State drug policy, provid[ing] access to medical marijuana, and enable[ing] research into the medicinal properties of marijuana,” the CARERS Act, among other things, would: (1) amend the CSA to make clear that it does not apply to individuals producing, possessing, or dispensing medical marijuana in compliance with state law, and; (2) re-classify marijuana as a less-restricted Schedule II drug, and make other changes to facilitate medical research with marijuana.

So far so good, if you’re a believer in medical marijuana. But the CARERS Act doesn’t address another elephant, or 800-pound gorilla, or some other example of a large, imposing creature, in the room: FDA.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.