The Senate’s top Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), has introduced legislation that aims to end cannabis prohibition and let states decide for themselves the legality of the plant.
The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act would decriminalize cannabis by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act; however, the federal government would maintain the authority to prevent cannabis trafficking from legal states to non-legal states.
The bill would also invest $250 million into investigating the highway safety pitfalls of cannabis legalization and $500 million into public health research investigating the effects of THC and other cannabinoids. Additionally, Schumer’s bill includes funding for cannabis businesses owned by women and people of color via the Small Business Administration.
“The new Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act is about giving states the freedom to be the laboratories that they should be and giving Americans – especially women and minority business owners as well as those convicted of simple possession of marijuana intended for personal use – the opportunity to succeed in today’s economy. This legislation is simply the right thing to do and I am hopeful that the balanced approach it takes can earn bipartisan support in Congress and across the country.” — Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in a statement
Sen. Schumer first announced the legislation on the symbolic day of April 20, the international day of cannabis celebration, saying that his thinking on the issue — echoing a similar statement by former Republican House Speaker John Boehner — had evolved.
“We commend Senator Schumer for joining the growing chorus of Congressional leaders stepping forward with alternatives to the failed prohibition of marijuana. With millions of Americans already living in states that successfully regulate adult-use cannabis and support for national legalization at record levels, this legislation would finally align federal marijuana policies with mainstream voter sentiment.” — Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, in a statement
The Senate bill will likely find some bipartisan support but, if approved there, could still face heavy opposition in the House of Representatives.