A long-awaited Senate bill that would legalize cannabis at the federal level has finally been unveiled. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said since February that the new legislation was almost ready to drop. This week released the first draft of the cannabis legalization bill that he has penned along with Senators Ron Wyden and Cory Booker.
What’s In The New Cannabis Legalization Bill?
Known as the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, the new legalization bill would federally deschedule cannabis, thus removing it from the Controlled Substances Act. This would make it legal for adults over the age of 21 to purchase up to ten ounces of weed at a time while also expunging prior cannabis-related convictions.
The bill has been specifically designed to repair the harms caused by prohibition and promote social equity. It contains several clauses that aim to benefit those who have been most affected by criminalization. For example, taxes raised from cannabis sales after legalization would be channeled into three separate grant programs, all of which are intended to level the playing field and give disadvantaged communities a leg up.
The first of these would provide job training, legal aid, and other services to those who have been historically targeted by the War on Drugs, while the other two would provide business loans and other funds to individuals from these communities, thereby removing some of the barriers to entry into the legal cannabis market.
Smaller cannabis businesses would also pay 50 percent less tax, thus ensuring they can compete with the larger corporations.
The new cannabis legalization bill would also remove regulatory authority over cannabis from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) instead of placing this power in the hands of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other related bodies.
Importantly, the Senators behind the new bill are asking the public for their input, intending to improve the terms of the legislation before it is formally submitted. Therefore, a public comment period has been opened, and anyone who has an opinion on the cannabis legalization bill is encouraged to share their views at Cannabis_Reform@finance.senate.gov by September 1st.
Will The New Cannabis Legalization Bill Become Law?
It’s too early to say whether the new bill is likely to make it through Congress, especially given that the document’s final version won’t be known until after the public comment period expires. Once this stage is reached, the new law will go up against another cannabis legalization bill known as the MORE Act, reintroduced to Congress earlier this year.
Both bills have been put forward by the Democrats, who currently control both the House and Senate and the White House. As such, there is a great deal of optimism that one of these pieces of legislation will make it all the way, although with President Biden yet to come out in support of legalization, the fate of both bills remains very much in the balance.
cannabis usaImmediately after the new bill was revealed, a White House spokesperson announced that “nothing has changed” regarding the President’s opposition to federal legalization. Schumer, meanwhile, has conceded that the document doesn’t yet have enough support to make it through the legislature but is optimistic that the majority of Senators can be brought onside over the coming months.