State legalization news breaks daily, however updates on national cannabis reform are not often in the headlines. After a solid amount of time in the doldrums, the federal bill to legalize weed — the Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act (CAOA) — is making its way back into the forefront. Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), supported by Sen. Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), recently introduced inclusive legislation to end federal prohibition of cannabis and promote social equity within the industry.
Federal Cannabis Legalization Bill
Some action items necessitated by the federal cannabis legalization bill:
- Removing cannabis from The Controlled Substances Act, while putting protections in place for public health and safety.
- Working towards restorative and economic justice.
- Creating a path to market for communities affected the deepest by the disproportionate War on Drugs’ impact on people of color.
- Establishing a basic tax structure.
- Heralding a call for more scientific research.
Development of the federal bill to legalize weed included consideration of more than 1,800 comments from stakeholders, as well as assistance from co-sponsors HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and HSGAC Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-MI).
“For far too long, the federal prohibition on cannabis and the War on Drugs has been a war on people, and particularly people of color,” said Majority Leader Schumer. “The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act will be a catalyst for change by removing cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances, protecting public health and safety, and expunging the criminal records of those with low-level cannabis offenses, providing millions with a new lease on life. A majority of Americans now support legalizing cannabis, and Congress must act by working to end decades of over-criminalization. It is time to end the federal prohibition on cannabis.”
Further, co-sponsor Wyden said, “It’s no longer a question of ‘if cannabis should be legal.’ The states are moving ahead, and not only do the overwhelming majority of American people support legalization, they now live in a state where some form of cannabis is legal. I’d ask my colleagues in the Senate to think long and hard about what keeping the federal government stuck in yesteryear means for public health and safety. By failing to act, the federal government is empowering the illicit cannabis market, it’s ruining lives and propping up deeply rooted racism in our criminal justice system, it’s holding back small cannabis businesses from growing and creating jobs in their communities. Cannabis legalization is here, and Congress needs to get with the program.”
Still pending approval is the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act; it has passed in the House seven times in various forms, however it remains delayed in the Senate under both Republican and Democratic leadership. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) remains hopeful of its passage due to the Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act, telling KOA NewRadio in Denver there’s now a clearer path to passage for the banking legislation.
The federal bill to legalize weed is long overdue.
In other news, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a revised bipartisan bill that would make it easier for researchers to study cannabis. The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Act must now pass the Senate, which is expected. If passage does in fact occur, then the bill will likely be the first stand-alone marijuana bill signed into law. Updates to previous versions include a streamlined application process and removal of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration barriers. Potentially, this passage could lead to new business in legalized states and more support for federal legalization.
Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican and senior member of the Senate, issued a statement: “This bipartisan bill is critical to better understanding the marijuana plant and its potential benefits and hazards. It will empower the FDA to analyze CBD and medical marijuana products in a safe and responsible way so that the American public can decide whether to utilize them in the future based on sound scientific data. Researching marijuana is widely supported on both sides of the aisle, and it’s a smart step forward.”
On the state level, a Minnesota law went into effect on July 1 that legalized the sale of edible cannabis products containing five milligrams of hemp-derived THC per serving, with a total package limit of 50 milligrams of THC. To differentiate from other similar laws, Minnesota’s law places no restrictions on where or who sells these edible cannabis products.
In Massachusetts, a cannabis reform bill has been introduced to direct 15% of the money in the Marijuana Regulation Fund into a new Social Equity Trust Fund. This fund would offer grants and loans to boost participation in the cannabis field among populations disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs.
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