Florida congressmen propose measure that would ease access to marijuana



Two Florida congressmen have proposed a bill that would make it easier for patients and researchers to get marijuana by classifying it differently from illegal drugs on the federal level.

U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, and Darren Soto, D-Orlando, have joined to push for a bipartisan measure that would move cannabis from being a Schedule I substance, like heroin or LSD, to a Schedule III substance, like anabolic steroids or Tylenol with codeine.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says Schedule III substances "have a potential for abuse less than substances in Schedules I or II and abuse may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence." The federal Controlled Substances Act currently classifies marijuana, heroin, LSD and Ecstasy in the same category, saying the drugs "have no currently accepted medical use."

"Floridians have spoken and medical marijuana is the law of the land," Soto says in a statement. "It's now time for the federal government to recognize this emerging law and the well-known medical benefits of marijuana."

In a joint news release, Gaetz and Soto say the majority of Americans support legalizing medical marijuana, and that HR 2020 would make it easier to research the plant's medical benefits, help small businesses in local economies meet patients' needs, and make it easier for those businesses to get bank loans and services.

"This drug should not be in the same category as heroin and LSD, and we do not need to continue with a policy that turns thousands of young people into felons every year," Gaetz says in a statement. "Nor do we need to punish the millions of people who are sick and seeking medical help – from pain, from muscle wasting, from chemotherapy-induced nausea."

The bill was assigned to a congressional committee last week that considers it before sending it on to the House of Representatives or the Senate.

While this bill may align with the will of Florida voters, it's miles away from what the Trump administration has planned. While President Donald Trump has expressed that he's in favor of medical marijuana, his appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said "medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much."

Sessions has also created a crime reduction task force created to review the Department of Justice's existing policies, including how it enforces marijuana laws, which could hint at a future crackdown on legal recreational marijuana. The former Alabama senator, who once joked that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was OK until he found out they smoked pot, said in March that marijuana was "only slightly less awful" than heroin.

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