On July 14, 2021, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY), along with fellow Democratic senators Cory Booker (NJ), and Ron Wyden (OR), released the first draft of the long-awaited Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. “It’s our legislative proposal to end the federal prohibition on marijuana and repair damage done by the War on Drugs - especially in communities of color,” declared Schumer in a tweet. To which the National Cannabis Roundtable replied, “Looking forward to digging in and working with @SenSchumer @CoryBooker @RonWyden to advance comprehensive reform.”
The draft seeks, first and foremost, to “decriminalize and deschedule cannabis, to provide for reinvestment incertain persons adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, to provide for expungement of certain cannabis offenses, and for other purposes.” But much of its 163 pages provides a much-needed blueprint for the regulation of the fledgling cannabis industry on a federal level.
What the bill does not do directly is legalize cannabis; instead, it offers a coordinated maneuver between the Attorney General to remove within 180 days of the bill’s passage “marihuana and tetrahydrocannabinols from the schedules of controlled substances. For the purposes of the Controlled Substances Act, marihuana and tetrahydrocannabinols shall each be deemed to be a drug or other substance that does not meet the requirements for inclusion in any schedule.” It also leaves drug testing for federal employees intact.
Even so, the bill has been welcomed by the cannabis industry, if only to release the tension of its months-long anticipation. NORML, the oldest cannabis advocacy organization in the U.S., said, “This long-awaited proposal is comprehensive and includes many of the criminal justice reforms provided in the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which passed the House of Representatives last December, and provides ample deference to the laws already in place in the majority of states that have already legalized marijuana for either medical or adult use.”
On the industry side, Gary Santo, CEO of TILT Holdings, said, "With legalization sweeping rapidly across the U.S. on a state level, we believe the public has spoken, and the next step is federal recognition of the benefits this plant has to offer. We at TILT are hopeful and excited to see big moves being made to legalize and decriminalize what the public has been trying to do for many years.”
Joe Caltabiano, co-founder of Cresco Labs and now CEO of Choice Consolidation Corp, noted that ”while this bill is an essential step in the right direction, it is a big ask and I’m a realist. It will take a lot to get this bill through Congress and signed by the President. I remain hopeful and enthusiastic for the passage of the Act, but I believe that even incremental actions, such as the passage of the SAFE Banking Act, would be a tremendous accomplishment for this Congress and the current administration.”
Chiara Juster, attorney and cannabis advocate, also showed caution: “Progress is welcome. I hope our hopes of the last seven years turn into giant leaps soon. I’d like the opinion of President Obama regarding continued drug testing for purposes of federal employment.”
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