VA Congressman pushes to federally deregulate marijuana

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Parents making an emotional plea to Congress.

“We tried over 17 different pharmaceuticals as well as two medical diets and an implanted medical device and despite all those treatments nothing worked for Haley," Lisa Smith said.

Smith’s daughter Haley has been having seizures since she was five months old. At seven, she was diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, a catastrophic form of epilepsy with no known cure. That's until she tried cannabis oil. Smith said her seizures decreased nearly in half and her cognitive skills have grown. But there’s one thing Smith still fears.

“Like Beth, when we’re getting low on our oil we face the decision to order it again and break federal law," Smith added.

Smith can face federal prosecution for purchasing the cannabis oil. That’s why Virginia Congressman Tom Garrett (R-VA-5) is introducing a bill to specifically remove marijuana from the federal schedule of controlled substances, leaving regulation up to the states.

"When faced with the choice of caring for your family or breaking an arcane law that’s been unreasonably unforced I think reasonable men and women would care for their families," Garrett said.

The bill is gaining bipartisan support from Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard in the House.

“The question before us is not whether you think marijuana use is good or bad or how you feel about this issue. Really the question is whether we should be turning people into criminals," Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI-2) said.

While families and lawmakers here on Capitol Hill are pushing for a change in federal policy, some are concerned the new bill will increase drug use.

“It really is unfortunate and surprising that he would spend his legislation resources and time opening the door and rolling out the red carpet for the next Big Tobacco," Jeff Zinsmeister, Executive Vice President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) said.

Zinsmeister is calling out Garrett for his proposed legislation. Zinsmeister argues commercializing marijuana will create the next ‘big tobacco’ industry of our time. He said the interest from tobacco and marijuana lobbies is putting profits before public health.

“These types of bills are not focused on compassion they’re focused on recreational, non medical use of an addictive substance, and it’s the big tobacco model all over again," he added.

Zinsmeister hopes lawmakers like Garrett will invest in funding for prevention, and treatment, rather than going through with the bill. Meanwhile, Garrett continues to work on getting the support from his Republican colleagues.

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