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Republican Senator Joins Rand Paul, Signs Medical Marijuana Bill

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Republican Sen. Dean Heller announced Wednesday that he’s adding his name to proposed legislation to legalize medical marijuana on the federal level for states with medical marijuana programs.

Sens. Rand Paul, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand proposed the legislation on Tuesday.

In a press release announcing his decision, Heller stated, “The time has come for the federal government to stop impeding the doctor-patient relationship in states that have decided their own medical marijuana policies. This bipartisan legislation puts Americans who are suffering first by allowing Nevada’s medical marijuana patients, providers, and businesses that are in compliance with state law, to no longer be in violation of federal law and vulnerable to federal prosecution.”

Heller’s move puts him at odds with other federal Republicans, who are not only staunchly opposed to marijuana, but have actively tried to halt legalization attempts. In Washington, D.C., Republican Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Mark Meadows threatened the D.C. City Council with the possibility of legal action if it allowed the voter-backed Initiative 71 measure to pass, which enacts a limited legalization regime. GOP Rep. Andy Harris has also tried to block Initiative 71 through a spending bill in Congress.

The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act, would reschedule marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II and prohibit the federal government from aggressively cracking down on medical marijuana operations and violating states’ rights. (RELATED: Senators Unveil Bill To Legalize Federal Medical Marijuana)

Rescheduling the drug would be explicit admission by the federal government that marijuana has legitimate medical value.

“We applaud Sen. Heller for co-sponsoring this important legislation, and we hope to see more of his Republican colleagues join him as it moves forward,” Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“This bill reflects several Republican principles. Rarely do you see a piece of legislation that is designed to protects states’ rights, respect medical choice, support our veterans, and promote tax fairness. Sen. Heller’s decision to sign on in support of this proposal demonstrates a growing level of support for marijuana policy reform within the Republican Party.”

A total of 23 states have medical marijuana programs, and 12 other states are considering legislation to allow a certain derivative of marijuana to treat conditions like epilepsy.

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