May 27, 2022

DECRIMINALIZATION: Schumer tries bipartisan approach for cannabis reform

DECRIMINALIZATION: Schumer tries bipartisan approach for cannabis reform

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced yesterday that he and two Democratic colleagues, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), are beginning to reach out across the aisle to see what Republican senators might want to include in the Senate version of a bill to legalize marijuana on the federal level.

“We hope to [file the Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act (CAOA)] towards the end of April,” Schumer said, just days after the House of Representatives passed their own cannabis legalization bill, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act,  sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY). “I’ve reached out already to a few Republicans to see what they want,” Schumer revealed.

It’s uncertain how much support the Democrats can garner from Senate Republicans given that Nadler’s bill in the House only managed to attract three Republican votes in favor of the legislation which was very similar to Schumer’s CAOA.

In the draft form that was circulated last year, the bill would remove marijuana from the federal schedule of controlled substances, expunge the convictions of those previously prosecuted for possession of cannabis, allow those incarcerated to petition for resentencing, allow all states to determine their own policies regarding the sales and use of the plant, and eliminate immigration-related sanctions for those with prior marijuana convictions. On the downside, according to marijuana advocates, Schumer’s bill would also impose a federal tax on cannabis products, although some revenue from that tax would be dedicated to grants to support people from communities most affected by the current draconian cannabis laws who want to work in the newly-enabled industry that the legislation would permit.

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When Schumer first announced the legislation last year, he stressed that he wanted to try to prevent large alcohol and tobacco companies from dominating the cannabis business, working to create a system that would allow small local operators to get the opportunity to help establish the new industry on the federal level instead.

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Last week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told journalists that President Biden knows that “our current marijuana laws are not working,” but would not comment on whether the President would sign the MORE act that the House passed last week.

With the Senate working on its own bill, expect that whatever final form cannabis decriminalization legislation takes will be worked out in a House/Senate conference before any votes are taken.

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Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.

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Original reporting by Kyle Jaeger at MarijuanaMoment.

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Vinnie Longobardo

is the Managing Editor of Washington Press and a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile, & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.

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