Legalization

Chuck Schumer Unveils Draft of New Legislation to Legalize Marijuana

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been promising for months that new cannabis legislation is coming “soon.”

“Soon” has finally arrived.

 

Schumer, along with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) on Wednesday released a draft of legislation to legalize cannabis. Dubbed the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), the bill would remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act, while giving states the right to decide how they want to legalize the drug – or if they even want to legalize it at all.

The bill would also expunge all nonviolent cannabis-related criminal records, a point Schumer stressed on Wednesday. “This is monumental,” Schumer said during a press conference announcing the bill. “At long last we are taking steps in the Senate to right the wrong of the failed War on Drugs…. The War on Drugs has really been a war on people, particularly people of color. The [CAOA] would help put an end to the unfair targeting and treatment of communities of color by removing cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances. It’s not just an idea whose time as come – it’s long overdue.”

Here are some of the basis of the CAOA:

  • Cannabis would be removed from the federal Controlled Substances Act.
  • All federal nonviolent cannabis-related criminal records would be immediately expunged.
  • States would be allowed to outline their own legalization laws, which could include prohibition.
  • The FDA would regulate the production, distribution, and sale of cannabis.
  • A federal excise tax would be imposed on cannabis, similar to the federal taxes on alcohol and tobacco.
  • A portion of tax revenue would be funneled into restorative justice programs for communities impacted by the War on Drugs.
  • A portion of tax revenue would fund research into cannabis and its effects.

The CAOA is a “discussion draft” for now, which means it will likely undergo changes before it’s introduced. Regardless, it doesn’t stand a very good chance of passing through Congress. At least 10 Senate Republicans would need to vote in favor the bill, and that’s assuming every Democratic senator votes in favor of it, which is far from a given. Even if the CAOA were to make it through Congress, President Biden, who supports decriminalizing but not legalizing cannabis, would need to be convinced to sign it.

Congress may be hesitant to move forward with cannabis legalization, but it’s one of the most popular bipartisan ideas among voters in the United States. A Pew Research poll released in April found that 60 percent of Americans feel cannabis should be totally legal, while 91 percent believe it should at least be legal for medicinal use. All five state legalization initiatives up for a vote last November passed, and state legislatures in New York, New Mexico, Virginia, and Connecticut have all voted to legalize the drug from recreational use in 2021, bringing the total number of states that have done so to 18. Federal legalization is the next hurdle.

“@SenBooker, @SenSchumer and I are all in to get this across the finish line in the next year,” Wyden tweeted on Wednesday. “Voters across the country agree that it’s time to end federal prohibition. We’ll be working around the clock until we succeed.”

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