U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, addresses the National Cannabis Industry Association meeting, in New York, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. AP Photo: Richard Drew via OneidaDispatch.com
Bruce Kennedy ~ WeedWorthy ~
 
The Senator from New York says the federal government needs to reform laws affecting marijuana’s medical use, allowing states to determine their own medical marijuana programs.
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Saying that nothing ever happens in Washington “unless good people stand up and demand action,” U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called on cannabis industry advocates and their supporters to urge their elected officials to support the so-called CARERS Act in Congress.
 
Gillibrand made her remarks on Monday in New York City, during her keynote address to the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) Business Summit & Expo; becoming the first sitting U.S. Senator to address a major cannabis industry event.
 
The CARERS Act, a bipartisan  measure introduced by Sen. Gillibrand along with Senator Rand Paul (R- KY) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), would reclassify medical marijuana as a Schedule II drug;  acknowledging that cannabis does have legitimate medical uses.It would also amend the Controlled Substances Act by removing the federal preemption clauses, so that states can determine their own medical marijuana programs.
 
During her NCIA address, Gillibrand described some boys and girls she had met in New York State and elsewhere who were suffering from chronic seizures and whose parents were seeking medical marijuana treatment for their children; although many of the parents lived in fear of being prosecuted
 
“I was baffled as to why it couldn’t be easier to help these patients,” she said, although she soon discovered what she described as three major obstacles facing potential medical marijuana patients: including a lack of legitimate medical marijuana research, as well as the conflict between state and federal statutes that Gillibrand said is “confusing doctors, patients and providers alike.”
 
“People aren’t sure what’s legal, what’s not, and the gray area that resulted is hindering health care and the industry’s development,” she continued.
 
The third issue, she told her NCIA audience, is one very familiar to anyone working in the legal cannabis industry: the “very limited” financial services available to marijuana grow facilities and dispensaries, due to federal laws.
 
“These financial restrictions have prevented transparent financing, and have forced many providers to run dangerous, cash-only operations,” the senator noted. “This is the case even in states that have legalized medical marijuana.”
 
And reform of medical marijuana laws, Gillibrand added, is not a one-dimensional issue. “We can’t pick just one of these challenges to address,” she said. “A collaborative approach will solve more problems, help more people and create a better framework for reform.”
 
 Senator Gillibrand’s speech received a standing ovation from her NCIA audience.
 
“If you look back at the history of this industry, and this movement, we’ve come quite a long way in quite a short time,” a medical marijuana industry worker from Maine told the New York Business Journal after the senator’s address. “For the U.S. Senate to be moving on this issue is simply historic.”
 
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