Senate Leadership Introduces Legislation to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

Washington, DC: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), along with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), today introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). The legislation repeals the federal criminal prohibition of cannabis, provides deference to states’ cannabis policies, and establishes mechanisms to help repair the harms associated with the racially and economically disparate enforcement of prohibition.

“The official introduction of this bill to finally end the policy nightmare of federal marijuana prohibition is the culmination of unprecedented leadership in the Senate and engagement with stakeholders across the political spectrum,” said NORML Political Director Morgan Fox. “We look forward to working with lawmakers to move this legislation toward passage and eagerly anticipate engaging in substantive conversations on all aspects of federal marijuana law with Senate members. These conversations and hearings are long overdue. The vast majority of Americans support comprehensive cannabis policy reform, and now is the time to figure out how to do that in a way that effectively addresses the damage done to marginalized communities and creates equitable opportunities in the burgeoning cannabis industry.”

The CAOA removes cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act schedule entirely, ending the threat of federal prosecution for possession and licensed commercial activity, and allows states to implement their own cannabis policies free of federal interference. It also eliminates many problems facing regulated state cannabis markets, including lack of access to financial services, the inability to deduct standard business expenses when filing federal taxes, and the lack of uniform national regulatory standards and guidelines. The legislation also directs funding to reinvest in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by prohibition and helps improve diversity and inclusion in regulated cannabis markets.

The initial draft language for this bill was published in June 2021. At that time, NORML submitted extensive comments and recommendations. In the intervening months, advocates have worked with Senate leadership and other stakeholders to revise the legislation and improve its chances of passage.

NORML’s initial feedback called for:

  • Strengthening civic protections, including record relief, to provide justice to those previously wronged by federal marijuana criminalization;
  • Revising outdated employment policies regarding non-scientific testing for trace metabolic elements of THC;
  • Ensuring that small and local businesses can compete both with larger corporations and the illicit market by reducing regulatory and tax burdens;
  • Narrowing the scope of the proposed excise tax to exempt medical cannabis consumer markets;
  • Balancing the roles of the FDA, TTB, ATF, and antitrust regulators in a manner that is consistent with other adult-use substances, such as alcohol or tobacco, to ensure non-disruption of currently operational state programs and promote increased local ownership in the future iterations of the marketplace.

NORML is carefully reviewing the language of this comprehensive legislation and intends to provide a detailed analysis and additional recommendations in the coming days.

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NORML advocates for changes in public policy so that the responsible possession and use of marijuana by adults is no longer subject to criminal penalties. NORML further advocates for a regulated commercial cannabis market so that activities involving the for-profit production and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis products are safe, transparent, consumer-friendly, and are subject to state and/or local licensure. Finally, NORML advocates for additional changes in legal and regulatory policies so that those who use marijuana responsibly no longer face either social stigma or workplace discrimination, and so that those with past criminal records for marijuana-related violations have the opportunity to have their records automatically expunged.

Find out more at norml.org and read our Fact Sheets on the most common misconceptions and myths regarding reform efforts around the country

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