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By Miriam Raftery

March 15, 2015 (Washington D.C.) –Legislation introduced this week in the Senate would protect patients, doctors and clinics from federal prosecution in states where medical marijuana is legal.  The bill would also allow Veterans Affairs physicians to recommend medical cannabis in those states.

In addition, the bill would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II, opening the door for research on medical benefits. Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug reserved for substances with no medical benefits, in the same category as heroin. 

The bipartisan bill is sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

The measure would not legalize marijuana in states where medical marijuana is still banned.  At present, 23 states have legalized medical marijuana and four have legalized recreational uses as well.  About a dozen more have legalized a form of marijuana for medical use that has low levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient.

Sale or use of non-medical marijuana would remain illegal under federal law, though the Obama administration has told prosecutors not to target such operations in states where the activities are legal.

Another bill, however, has been introduced in the House that would go farther. Democratic Congressional members Jared Polis of Colorado and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon have authored a measure that would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and regulate it similar to alcohol.   

A CBS News poll in January 2014 found that 86% of Americans believe medical marijuana should be legal for doctors to prescribe, while for the first time in the poll’s history, a majority – 51%, said they believe all marijuana should be legalized.  Moreover, nearly two thirds--62% of those polled--- say that legalization of marijuana should be up to the states—not the federal government. 

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