On Wednesday, July 14, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (NY), Senator Cory Booker (NJ), and Senator Ron Wyden (OR) introduced a draft bill to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. The draft discussion of the legislation, named the Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act (the “Bill”), opens by recognizing the disparate impact of the War on Drugs on people of color and states that goal of the Bill is to “end the decades of harm inflicted on communities of color by removing cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and empowering states to implement their own cannabis laws.”
Beyond removing cannabis from the controlled substances list and recognizing state law regarding cannabis, the Bill has several other key provisions. The Bill emphasizes equity, which is unsurprising in light of Schumer’s prior statements about his cannabis legislation goals after the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (“SAFE”) passed the House in April. The Bill includes immediate expungement of nonviolent marijuana-related arrests and convictions from federal records. It will also create an “Opportunity Trust Fund” using cannabis tax revenue to reinvest in communities most impacted by the War on Drugs.
The Bill also puts authority in the Food and Drug Administration(FDA), Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for regulations. Several other federal agencies, ranging from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Internal Revenue Service, will also have regulatory responsibilities. The FDA’s oversight will include labeling and packaging, as well as tracking and tracing, requirements.
Schumer, the first majority leader of the U.S. Senate to lead a push for the legalization of cannabis, is hoping to use his leadership position to leverage support for the bill. He plans to work with others in the Senate to create a final bill that is workable for others and can pass the divided Senate. However, Schumer and the co-sponsors face an uphill battle to pass any decriminalization bill in the Senate, even with Schumer’s willingness to compromise. The Bill will require 60 votes to pass, but many – including Democrats and the Biden administration– do not support federal decriminalization.