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John Brighenti

Democratic Leaders Reintroduce Legalization Bill

Sens. Chuck Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries announced they will reintroduce the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, which would legalize cannabis nationwide and authorize spending for cannabis crime expungement.

Full story after the jump.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries — the Senate leader and caucus chair respectively — plan to reintroduce the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, which would remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act and authorize the feds to spend $100 million over five years to help states expunge old low-level cannabis-related records.

Schumer previously introduced the legislation last year, but it was never moved from the Senate Judiciary Committee. The previous version of the bill included 7 co-sponsors including former vice-presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine and current presidential candidates Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

“The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act would give states the right to make their own choices when it comes to regulation; better equip all Americans, particularly communities disproportionately impacted by marijuana’s criminalization, to participate in the growing marijuana economy; and, by incentivizing sealing and expungement programs, provide Americans with low-level marijuana convictions the opportunity to move forward.” – Schumer, in a press release

The measure includes provisions dedicating funding to women and minority-owned cannabusiness through the Small Business Association; a $250 million authorization – over five years – for highway safety research to “assess the pitfalls” of driving under the influence of cannabis; a five-year, half-million investment for cannabis-related public health research; and restrictions on advertising to minors.

In a statement, Jeffries called the $100 million expungement investment helps “correct the injustice” of America’s “archaic” 70-plus-year-old cannabis laws.

The Senate, however, is controlled by Republicans and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – who controls which bills make it to the floor for a vote – told The Hill last year he has “no plans” to endorse cannabis legalization. In December 2018, McConnell blocked the SAFE Banking Act, which would give legal cannabusinesses regular banking access, from being considered in the chamber.

Democratic Sen. Corey Booker has also introduced legalization legislation, the Marijuana Justice Act, which was referred to the Judiciary Committee in February.

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