Senate leaders today filed a cannabis legalization bill that would decriminalize cannabis federally and allow states to set their own policies, Politico reports. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NJ).
The proposal faces long odds in the Senate where the filibuster rules require 60 votes for legislation to pass the chamber. Democrats hold a one-vote majority as Vice President Kamala Harris serves as the tie-breaking 51st vote. Several Democrats told Politico that they may not support the reforms, including Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Joe Manchin (W.VA), and Bob Casey (PA).
The bill includes priorities for both Democrats and Republicans, including:
- The expungement of federal cannabis-related crimes.
- Grant programs for small business owners hoping to enter the industry who come from communities that were disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.
- Increased funding for law enforcement for illegal cultivation.
- Cannabis marketing restrictions.
- A requirement that the Transportation Department develop a nationwide standard for cannabis-impaired driving.
Earlier this month, six senators, including Booker and Wyden, sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to use his executive authority to deschedule cannabis and issue pardons to all individuals convicted of non-violent cannabis crimes. Last weekend, Biden told reporters he believes nobody should be imprisoned for “the use of marijuana” and that his administration is working on a “crime bill” to address the issue.
Yet the president indicated as recently as last year that he does not support federal cannabis legalization. When asked about a separate legalization proposal, then-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president still opposed the reforms and would not endorse the legislation.
The House has twice passed a cannabis legalization bill – the MORE Act – but it has never been voted on in the Senate, despite Schumer’s leadership.
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