What Is the CARERS Act and Why Is It Important?

Posted by Meital Manzuri, Esq. | May 19, 2016 | 0 Comments

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Currently, federal restrictions on marijuana are hindering the cannabis industry in banking, drug scheduling, medical research, MMJ access for veterans, and more. The remedy could be the CARERS Act, a federal cannabis bill introduced in 2015 but thought to be dead – until recently…

Imagine this: the business you own contributes to society.

It's simple – your products and services comfort and aid people in need.

Yet, several times a month, simple transactions, like banking, are impossible.

If you're in the MMJ industry, you don't have to imagine this scenario – it's all too real.

And that's just one reason why the CARERS Act is so important.

Currently – Without CARERS

Banking and scheduling of Marijuana is like the Berlin wall of cannabis. On one side we have a flourishing cannabis industry with professionals chiseling away, piece by piece, to break down the legal barriers that are banking and scheduling. On the other side is the federal government, whose current regulations forbid California banks from doing business with lawful cannabis businesses, and the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which dauntingly leaves cannabis in the Schedule I drug category.

As a result, MMJ businesses can't pay their taxes, as normal companies can do; and a drug is not recognized as having medicinal benefits, despite overwhelming evidence that it does.

The removal of marijuana from Schedule I, or even the rescheduling to Schedule II, is a major chunk of the metaphorical wall removed, paving the way for banking access. In the meantime, an industry made up of advocates, professionals, and lawful businesses is forced to use cash reserves from, presumably, under their mattress.

The U.S. Government's answer to all this – the CARERS Act.

CARERS Seeks to Ease Barriers

The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) bill is federal cannabis legislation designed to correct issues plaguing the industry.

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators ranging from conservative to moderate to liberal, which symbolizes the proposal's significance and necessity.

Advocates of CARERS say it would transform the industry on several fronts:

Deference to States' Marijuana Policies.  Each state could determine its own cannabis policy, without federal interference. Under CARERS, state- legal cannabis users and businesses could have complete legal protections merely by following state cannabis laws.

Availability of Banking and Tax Benefits.  Under CARERS, a state-legal compliant business would be afforded normal banking access, and the Feds would be restricted from penalizing marijuana enterprises on that basis solely. Banks could no longer file suspicious activity reports (SARs) on cannabis business accounts. AND…Cannabis businesses would also get tax breaks, which you could pass on to your patients.

CARERS Reschedules Marijuana as a Schedule II drug.  Under CARERS, Like under Schedule I, Cannabis would still be regarded as having high potential for abuse, but with an accepted medical benefit.

Cannabidiol (CBD) De-scheduled.  CBD wouldn't be included in any definition of marijuana, and cannabis products with less than 0.3% THC would be de-scheduled.

Rescheduling allows for Research.  The current barriers impeding the review process and the restrictions on the MJ designated for research would be eliminated so that more substantial, meaningful research can be done.

Veteran Access.  Veterans relying on the VA for healthcare could access state MMJ programs, and VA doctors could recommend medical cannabis to vets.

CARERS Current Status

Introduced in March 2015, the bill has yet to be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republican Senator Charles Grassley, who chairs the Committee, has a long history of anti-drug opposition and has ignored the bill.

However, hope has recently been revived.

Since March 2016, support for CARERS has strengthened. Surprisingly, much of it is from conservatives with drug policy voting records similar to Grassley's.

This swing in momentum toward cannabis reform is huge, and signs indicate that Grassley will eventually hold the hearing, as he's recently abandoned his once-steadfast refusal to even listen to discussions on marijuana reform by engaging lobbyists, activists, and other policymakers.

CARERS may not be perfect, but it's a start. There's still much work to be done, but this bill seems to be a huge step in the right direction.

Click here to sign a petition supporting the CARERS Act and demanding that Grassley schedule a hearing for it.

Visit Manzuri Law for updates to this important issue.

About the Author

Meital Manzuri, Esq.

Managing Partner.

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