Preliminary Draft of Federal Cannabis Legalization Bill Released

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Several Senators have come together on Wednesday to hold a press conference regarding a new cannabis legalization bill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and others helped introduce a preliminary draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. This new bill would end federal cannabis prohibition, among many other benefits.

Details of the Bill

The extensive bill, which contains 163 pages, deals with several aspects regarding cannabis legalization. Along with Schumer, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are also leading this bill. As currently drafted, the bill would make the following changes to federal cannabis policies:

  • Deschedule cannabis by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act;
  • Allow states to craft their own cannabis policies, just as states do with alcohol;
  • Expunge federal records of arrests and convictions for non-violent cannabis offenses and allow for resentencing;
  • Create a regulatory framework and federal excise tax for cannabis; and
  • Establish a grants program to fund nonprofits to help those impacted by the war on cannabis, as well as programs to help equity applicants and states get access to funds for equity programs.

“Cannabis prohibition, a key pillar of the failed war on drugs, has caused substantial harm to our communities and small businesses, and especially for communities of color,” said Wyden. “It’s as simple as this: Senators Booker, Schumer, and I want to bring common sense to the federal government, end prohibition and restore the lives of those hurt most and set them up for the opportunity.”

Compared to Previous Attempts

Rep. Jerrold Nadler

In May of this year, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) reintroduced the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act. The bill passed the House of Representatives last year, but it did not advance in the Senate.

The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, a bill that would prevent federal regulators from punishing financial institutions that provide services to state-legal cannabis businesses, passed the House earlier this year. A Senate version of this bill has been introduced and currently has 39 cosponsors.

Since November 2020, eight states have either approved ballot initiatives or enacted legislation to legalize, regulate and tax cannabis for adults. This brings the total number of legalization states to 19 (in one state, South Dakota, the law has been suspended pending a court ruling). According to a 2020 Gallup poll, 68% of Americans support cannabis legalization, including nearly half of Republicans.

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