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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Barbara Boxer Joins Senate Marijuana Legalization Bill; Feinstein Still Holding Out

Posted By on Wed, Mar 18, 2015 at 11:37 AM

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A California lawmaker is finally on board with a Tea Party favorite in legalizing medical marijuana nationwide.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, California's junior representative in the country's upper lawmaking house, has added her name as a co-sponsor to the CARERS Act. Introduced earlier this month by Sens. Rand Paul, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand, the CARERS Act is the first effort in the Senate to reform the federal government's out-and-out total war on weed.

Having a representative of the country's most populous state — and the state of origin of much of the country's cannabis, legal and illicit — is significant. Of course, there's still a holdout: Dianne Feinstein. But even Feinstein, who has long opposed marijuana reform, is supposedly giving the bill a chance.

As the country continues its rapid change on marijuana, top civic leaders are giving the issue serious attention like never before. President Barack Obama sat down for an interview with VICE (!?) this week, in which he said legalization would be "progress" (!!??). And while Congress has repeatedly seen marijuana legalization bills die in committee, the senators — one of who is a Republican with some shot at the GOP nomination for president next year (Paul) — go further than ever before.
A "maybe" beats a "hell no."
  • A "maybe" beats a "hell no."
The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act would allow states that have legalized medical marijuana to do so without federal interference, would allow cannabis dispensaries to use banks, would reschedule cannabis at the federal level — allowing scientists to research and allowing veterans to access medical marijuana for PTSD and pain.

CARERS still needs a lot of help to get anywhere. To even be heard in committee, a more die-hard Republican would have to schedule it. And a well-intentioned bill dies before it can be born because of an obstructionist committee chairman. And true to form, Sen. Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, is unlikely to schedule it, a spokeswoman told the San Francisco Chronicle.

But at least Boxer is on board. Her office has thus far issued no statement on support [UPDATE: Boxer's office sent us over this nugget: “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,” said Boxer spokesman Zachary Coile.] but legalization advocates are predictably buoyed.

"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," said Tom Angell, a longtime cannabis advocate who now serves as chairman of the Marijuana Majority. "We would have expected her to do something on this years ago, but better late than never."

Meanwhile, the real test of how far cannabis reform has come in America is closer to home. San Francisco's own Sen. Dianne Feinstein has opposed ending marijuana prohibition at nearly every step — but even she is giving CARERS a shot, according to the Chronicle's Debra J. Saunders.

Feinstein is "reviewing" the bill, Saunders reported. This may sound like nothing, but keep in mind Feinstein was the chairperson of the anti-Prop. 19 committee in 2010. 

So this is progress, as slow and as lukewarm as it may be. 

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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