Yesterday, Senators Chuck Schumer, Ron Wyden, and Cory Booker set forth their long-awaited proposal to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and end federal prohibition.
The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act is not a formal bill, but rather a detailed legislative proposal intended as a framework for debate, with the idea of crafting the final legislation the fall.
But the proposal is powerful. The act calls for the end of the federal ban on cannabis, with provisions to regulate and tax the plant like alcohol and tobacco. And the senators come out swinging for criminal justice reform. The first paragraphs reads: “The War on Drugs has been a war on people— particularly people of color. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act aims to end the decades of harm inflicted on communities of color by removing cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and empowering states to implement their own cannabis laws.”
The text is direct and forceful, sometimes bordering on scathing. The first page goes on to read: “By ending the failed federal prohibition of cannabis, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act will ensure that Americans–especially Black and Brown Americans–no longer have to fear arrest. or be barred from public housing or federal financial aid for higher education for using cannabis in states where it’s legal. State-compliant cannabis businesses will finally be treated like other businesses and allowed access to essential financial services, like bank accounts and loans. Medical will no longer be stifled.”
The senators continue: “But this alone is not enough. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act includes restorative measures to lift up people and communities who were unfairly targeted in the War on Drugs.” They go on to propose automatic expungement for federal non-violent marijuana crimes, and the creation of a tax-funded trust to help level the playing field for entrepreneurs of color and reinvest in the communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.
“It’s as simple as this: Senators Booker, Schumer and I want to bring common sense to the federal government, end prohibition, restore the lives of those hurt most and set them up for opportunity,” Senator Wyden said.
A roster of cannabis industry leaders have expressed enthusiasm for the act. Joe Caltabiano, CEO of Choice Consolidation Corp and Cresco Labs co-founder, stressed that it’s imperative for both criminal justice reform and business. “The opportunity to address safe access to cannabis and robust reforms needed for cannabis banking and tax policy is long overdue,” he said.
Leaf Trade CRO Michael Piermont praised the effort, saying it will spur economic vitality for workers and businesses, and usher in greater restorative justice for victims of the misguided drug war. “It’s great to finally see Congress introduce common-sense legislation that would remove cannabis from its Schedule 1 classification under the Controlled Substances Act,” Piermont said, adding, “The Senate’s proposal would level the playing field for all legal cannabis industry companies that simply want to conduct business the same way as every other company in America.”
Of course, industry support means little in Washington, and the act faces an uphill battle in the Senate. Joe Caltabiano said he remains optimistic, but added, “While this bill is an essential step in the right direction, it is a big ask and I’m a realist. It will take a lot to get this bill through Congress and signed by the President.”