On Wednesday, sens.Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) released a debate proposal for a legislative proposal proposing a comprehensive reform of marijuana policy in the United States. The Cannabis Management and Access Act would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, repel federal non-violent cannabis convictions (and encourage states to do the same) and create “new aid programs to fund nonprofits that provide services to those affected by the war on drugs.
In the introduction to the 30-page bill, senators point out that adult cannabis use is already legal in 18 states, Washington DC, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam. Medicated marijuana is even more legal, legal in 37 states, Puerto Rico, DC, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“These changes represent a dynamic shift in public opinion and support across the policy area,” the statement states. “Cannabis companies that meet state requirements will eventually be treated like other companies and will have access to essential Financial Services such as bank accounts and loans. Medical research is no longer stifled. “
Despite recent government action, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level and is also being prosecuted by federal agencies in states where cannabis use is permitted. In practice, these prosecutions have been low, but the risk of federal action has meant that marijuana companies have limited options in banking and many non-recreational uses of the facility have been suppressed.
The unclear legal status of marijuana in the United States has also increased racial inequality in the legal system. According to a Analysis by the U.S. Civil Liberties Alliance in 2020Black Americans were more than three times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than white Americans. An analysis Washington Post Last year, it was found that between 2015 and 2019, blacks accounted for 89 percent of Washington DC’s 3,631 marijuana arrests.
The proposed legislation directly addresses this through a number of remedies targeted at communities disproportionately affected by the marijuana ban. The proposal would overturn federal convictions for non-violent marijuana and allow those currently offering time to re-petition. The legislation also created a permanent fund that directs revenues from federal cannabis taxes to “reinvest in the communities most affected by the failed drug war.”
In addition, the proposed legislation
- setting the minimum age for the retail sale of cannabis at 21 years
- assess the social impact of legalization in countries where adults use cannabis.
- introduce three grant programs to create an opportunity for drug war victims
- expel violent federal marijuana arrests and beliefs and encourage states to do the same. Those who serve time in a federal prison for non-violent marijuana crimes can appeal to the courts
- provide funding to eligible states and localities for loan programs for small cannabis businesses owned by “socially and economically disadvantaged individuals”;
- portable tax rate on cannabis products similar to alcohol and tobacco
The legislation also transfers responsibility for cannabis regulation from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The FDA would have authority to manufacture and market cannabis products, and the TTB would have regulatory authority over the taxation of cannabis. And revenue from federal taxes would support restorative justice as well as public health and safety research.
The bill no longer requires the legal status of cannabis throughout the United States. Under the proposed rule, states, local governments, and Indian tribes would still be able to adopt and enforce more stringent rules and regulations on cannabis than the FDA. The legislation would establish an advisory committee on the regulation of cannabis products, which would be “convened and consulted by the FDA prior to the publication of the rules.”
The bill has not been formally presented to Congress, and a final legislative proposal is not expected until later this year. As described in the summary, the current proposal is simply a draft debate aimed at “launching a solid debate among stakeholders” as the three sponsoring senators finalize their proposal.
Still, efforts are arriving at a unique pace for marijuana reform in the United States. Voters passed new cannabis laws in four state elections in November 2020, and Democrats in parliament adopted MORE legislation in December which would have decriminalized cannabis and removed criminal records of those convicted of marijuana-related crimes. President Biden said during his campaign that he is working to “schedule cannabis as a Schedule II drug so researchers can investigate its positive and negative effects,” although Biden’s Department of Justice has been slow to take action on the promise.
Concerned stakeholders are encouraged to send comments to the Senate Finance Committee by September using the email address Cannabis_Reform@finance.senate.gov.