The historic bill was introduced by Republican senator Rand Paul and Democratic senators Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday.
The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act would “allow patients, doctors and businesses in states that have already passed medical-marijuana laws to participate in those programs without fear of federal prosecution,” a statement released by the three senators reads.
Under this measure, marijuana would be reclassified as a Schedule II drug instead of Schedule I, putting it would be in the same class as narcotics rather than substances like heroin.
According to the statement, the reforms will ensure that patients access the care needed, especially veterans receiving care from VA facilities in states with medical marijuana programs.
While 23 states have legalized medical pot, the bill would prevent the federal government from interfering in states’ marijuana laws and stop the Drug Enforcement Agency from closing medical marijuana dispensaries.
“This bipartisan legislation allows states to set their own medical marijuana policies and ends the criminalization of patients, their families, and the caregivers and dispensary owners and employees who provide them their medicine,” said Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance.
Marijuana supporters praised the new legislature.
“This is a significant step forward when it comes to reforming marijuana laws at the federal level,” said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project.
Others are more skeptical, saying “the bill may be “DOA” because some Republicans may not support it.
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Twelve more states are in the process of signing into law regulating cannabidiol (CBD) oils, used to treat children’s seizures. Four states and Washington, D.C. have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.