Cannabis Caucus – What and Why?
April 6, 2017
The Congressional Cannabis Caucus is a bipartisan registered Congressional Member Organization in the United State Congress, which was formed in 2017 during the 115th United States Congress. The goal of the Caucus; to bring forth uniformity and reasonable regulations to harmonize the cannabis industry, which is made complicated by intersecting lines of federal and state regulation, causing law-abiding citizens to risk their families, homes, and businesses, for gaining access to state-authorized, doctor-recommended medical cannabis.
Many states continue to enact some level of accessible medical cannabis for qualified patients, however, many of these states loosely define, “accessible.” For example, in Kentucky (and many other states, but we’re using Kentucky as our example), medical cannabis is considered legal, yet, due to several complications, doctor-recommended patients are still unable to obtain medical cannabis. Let’s look at the facts.
- State law suggests patients can obtain a “written order” for medical cannabis from a medical doctor; however, doctors are licensed at the federal level, so they are at risk of jeopardizing their medical license should they “recommend” cannabis to a patient. It is illegal under federal law for doctor’s to write a patient “prescription” for medical cannabis, which is why a “recommendation” is a loophole, however, an ineffective one.
- Some people believe that patients can visit a private doctor to obtain a medical cannabis recommendation, which is partly true. A Kentucky resident may manage to obtain a written order privately recommending medical cannabis from a licensed doctor, yet they still have nowhere in the state to obtain the recommended medicine.
- There is no law that allows and regulates the sale of medical cannabis; meaning there are no registered, licensed businesses in the whole state that are legally allowed to dispense medical cannabis.
So does Kentucky (and many other states) really have a medical cannabis program? Technically yes, but it’s completely inaccessible to patients. Even when you consider the fact that 5 out of 7 of Kentucky’s neighboring states have enacted some type of medical cannabis program, several providing ease of access, a Kentucky resident cannot purchase from any of those states as they do not recognize out-of-state medical cannabis recommendations. So to bring in medical cannabis from any other state, whether it be by car, plane, or boat, is considered illegal trafficking and can get someone thrown into federal prison.
So how can we address this alarming restriction of something that U.S. voters have approved in their respective state? This thought initiated the launch of the 2017 Congressional Cannabis Caucus.
The caucus was founded by Republicans Dana Rohrabacher and Don Young and Democrats Earl Blumenauer and Jared Polis. The goal of the Caucus is simple; cut out the red tape that makes state’s medical cannabis programs so unclear, and create uniformity so states can begin operating these industries with peace of mind. There are several state legislators who have recently submitted legislation aimed at cannabis reform, however, the proposed tactics for regulating and taxing the plant’s sale in each respective proposal are completely different from one another. This is in addition to the recent flood of mail to the Trump administration requesting that they lay off state’s cannabis programs. The caucus aims to streamline cannabis reform legislation at the federal level, stating that it is a “states’ rights issue.” So instead of several state legislators submitting their own, one-off versions of proposed cannabis regulations, this group will create harmony and provide future proposals with uniformity in terms of how they will regulate and tax the plant, which simplifies things from a federal regulatory perspective. Additionally, the caucus intends to increase research into medical cannabis, which would further strengthen the argument of medical cannabis at the federal level considering a key opposing point is lacking credible research into the plant’s medical benefits.
This is one of the most significant strides that congress has made to reform cannabis laws at the federal level, and it’s an even bigger deal that it’s a collaborative effort between both sides. Many legislators have submitted reform cannabis legislation independently from one another, usually offering differing solutions, which ultimately creates a disconnection in approach and thus, difficulty in gaining traction. Coming together as one with several legislators who have participated in recreational and medical cannabis legislation in their respective state, helps to create consistency with an informed approach that utilizes their past experiences to strengthen the position of future cannabis reform legislation.
2017 should be an exciting year for cannabis. Make sure you have a system to keep you compliant.
Connect with the Author, Anthony Stevens on LinkedIn. Anthony is the VP of Product Management for BioTrackTHC and has been with the company for over 7 years!
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