The time for federally legal marijuana has come. Yesterday, Senate Democrats released a draft bill for sweeping marijuana reform, The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, and Nancy Reagan is rolling in her grave.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey presented the changes. The proposal includes legalizing cannabis, expunging federal non-violent cannabis convictions (those already serving can petition for resentencing), and giving money back to communities most affected by the war on drugs.
The restorative measures address racial inequities involving cannabis arrests. Minorities are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses, according to a 2020 report by the ACLU. A Washington Post study found Black people made up 89 percent of 3,631 marijuana arrests in Washington between 2015 and 2019.
The bill proposes to conduct a societal impact evaluation in already-legal states, set the age limit to 21, and impose an excise tax similar to tobacco and alcohol. It also proposes to provide loan programs to small businesses. Schumer said they want to restrict large alcohol and tobacco companies from overtaking the industry. Cannabis jurisdiction would switch hands from the DEA to the FDA, which would control manufacturing and marketing. The Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau would oversee taxes.
Cannabis is already recreationally legal in 18 states and medically legal in 37 states. The government limited federal cannabis prosecutions in recent years. Yet, the risk of prosecution created major banking obstacles and regulation issues.
State governments would still determine their cannabis legislation.
A final draft is expected later in the year. Unfortunately, President Joe Biden is at odds with democratic leadership and bipartisan popularity. Press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s stance hasn’t changed, that he supports decriminalization but opposes legalization. Many cannabis supporters criticized the Biden White House for firing staffers who tested positive for THC at the beginning of his term.
A bill to decriminalize cannabis passed in the House in 2020 but was killed in the then Republican-led Senate. Schumer needs 10 Republican votes to pass legislation, but he’s still convincing some of his own party members, who are criticizing the draft for lack of research on the potential dangers of cannabis.
While the discussion draft isn’t an official bill, 90 percent of U.S. adults think marijuana should be legal, according to a recent Pew Research Study. Hopefully that’s enough support to sway the president and government officials’ stance on long-overdue legislation.