With little fanfare, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has thrown her support behind a historic Senate bill to comprehensively reform medical marijuana at the federal level.
The bill, unveiled last week by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), would end the federal prohibition on medical marijuana and offer clarity to states that have approved the drug for medical use. Among its many features, the bill would reclassify marijuana in the federal government’s eyes, moving it from the Schedule 1 category of drugs deemed to have no accepted medical use to Schedule 2.
“Senator Boxer is a strong supporter of California’s medical marijuana law and she believes that patients, doctors and caregivers in states like California should be able to follow state law without fear of federal prosecution,” Zachary Coile, Boxer’s communications director, said in a statement.
According to federal records, Boxer, who is not seeking reelection next year, cosponsored the bill on Tuesday, although her office issued no announcement of her support. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) also sponsored the bill last week, saying in a news release that “the time has come for the federal government to stop impeding the doctor-patient relationship in states that have decided their own medical marijuana policies.”
Boxer’s support is in line with her past comments on marijuana. In 2010, her campaign manager told Talking Points Memo that Boxer opposed a state legalization measure “because she shares the concerns of police chiefs, sheriffs and other law enforcement officials that this measure could lead to an increase in crime, vehicle accidents and higher costs for local law enforcement agencies.” But, the spokeswoman added, Boxer does support California’s medical marijuana law.
“Sen. Boxer represents the state that led the way on medical marijuana, and it’s about time she took some action to defend the will of California’s voters from federal interference,” Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, an advocacy group, said in a statement. California in 1996 became the first state to pass a medical marijuana law. Nevada’s medical marijuana laws went into effect last year.
In addition to rescheduling the drug, the federal bill would exclude some strains of cannabis-derived oil from the federal definition of marijuana. Such oils used to treat epilepsy and seizure disorders have very low or no levels of THC, the ingredient associated with the drug’s pscyhoactive effects. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act would also let Department of Veterans Affairs doctors recommend marijuana for patients, expand opportunities to research the drug, and let banks and financial services companies offer their services to the industry.