In an effort to dismantle the misguided “war on drugs” New York Senator Chuck Schumer will propose The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.
Along with Schumer, the bill was co-authored by Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, and Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and the chairman of the Finance Committee.
The proposed legislation would place federal rules on a booming industry that has long been operating under a cloud of uncertainty. The bill would also remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.
Perhaps more importantly, the bill also aims to indemnify poorer communities and communities of color for the damage inflicted by years of restrictive federal drug policy. It calls for immediately expunging nonviolent marijuana-related arrests and convictions from federal records and would designate new tax revenue for restorative justice programs intended to repair communities that suffered under cannabis prohibition.
Under the proposed legislation, states could still set their own marijuana laws. But businesses and individuals in those states would now be free to sell and consume marijuana without the risk of federal punishment.
Schumer sees the political advantage to decriminalizing marijuana. Public opinion polling indicates nearly 70 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, and 18 states plus D.C. allow adult recreational use. To legalize it federally would likely bring even more younger voters to the Democratic Party.
Details in the bill are still pending but it’s expected that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau at the Treasury Department would regulate the production, distribution, and sale of marijuana, removing the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from its current oversight role. The bill could also lead to a change in the way marijuana packaging is regulated.
Importantly, the changes would allow marijuana companies operating in the U.S. to gain full access to the United States banking system. Lack of access to bank loans and credit card companies has forced companies to rely on cash-only or cryptocurrency.
The bill hasn’t received an endorsement from President Biden, and will likely face resistance from Republicans and moderate Democrats. To pass the bill, Mr. Schumer would need the support of at least 10 Republicans. Though libertarian-leaning Republicans have generally supported ending the prohibition of marijuana, the bill’s emphasis on restorative justice and government intervention in the cannabis industry is likely to keep party leaders in opposition.
Nonetheless, the presentation on Wednesday, July 14, represents a milestone in the decades-old battle to decriminalize, if not legalize, cannabis.