This piece first appeared on AlterNet.
A bipartisan trio of senators will introduce historic legislation to legalize medical marijuana at the federal level.
Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Rand Paul (R-KY) are set to file the bill tomorrow.
Booker and Paul have already made names for themselves as drug war reformers, but the addition of Gillibrand as a New York senator backing medical marijuana is welcome.
The bill would end the federal prohibition on medical marijuana and allow patients, doctors, and providers in states with medical marijuana laws to go about their business without fear of federal prosecution.
Although the Obama administration has, in recent years, largely taken a laissez-faire approach to medical marijuana in states that have approved it, that approach is both uneven and dependent on the whim of the administration in power. Just last week, federal prosecutors in Washington state took a family of five medical marijuana patients — the Kettle Falls Five — to trial, threatening them with lengthy, mandatory minimum prison sentences for growing medical marijuana legally under state law (in a state where even recreational marijuana is legal!).
Fortunately for the Kettle Falls Five, a federal jury acquitted them of most charges, including the most serious ones. But under the current state of federal marijuana prohibition, such prosecutions could continue.
Similarly, the Obama administration’s recent restraint on medical marijuana is derived from Justice Department guidance to federal prosecutors about which cases raise the level of federal concern high enough to warrant prosecution. That guidance was crafted by a deputy attorney general answerable to Attorney General Holder and the president. Absent protections provided by this coming bill or similar legislation, a new administration could easily return to the bad old days of DEA raids and patients and providers being hauled off to federal prison.
Details of the bill are not yet available, but will be revealed during a Washington, D.C., press conference on March 10.