The United States Congress just proposed a new bill, called the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, which would take cannabis off of the federal list of controlled substances. In addition, the bill would serve to expunge federal cannabis records, a big step in helping to give justice to those who were charged for marijuana-related crimes. Finally, the bill would also put a federal tax on cannabis and then use that tax revenue to reinvest in the communities and individuals who have been most impacted by the War on Drugs.
The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act was introduced by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and co-sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. One of the most notable aspects of the newly proposed bill is the difference in language compared to previous cannabis legalization efforts. The bill opens by discussing the fact that “the communities that have been most harmed by cannabis prohibition are benefitting the least from the legal marijuana marketplace”. This highlights the racial and ethnic injustices that have come as a result of 80 years of marijuana prohibition enforcement.
While it did not pass in either chamber of Congress, the SAFE Banking Act was mentioned by Booker in regards to federal legalization taking precedence over that. Booker was vocal about the fact that the banking measure aimed to provide relief to existing businesses, not the hundreds and thousands of Americans who are arrested each year for cannabis-related crimes. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, unlike the SAFE Banking Act, focuses on equity measures and criminal justice relief.
The new bill would take cannabis off of the federal schedule of controlled substances. In addition, it would remove the DEA from handling any marijuana law enforcement and would instead have the Treasury Department and the Department of Health and Human Services enforce cannabis laws. Between the restorative justice programs and the new federal cannabis tax, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act seems to be the first real step in the right direction to legalize cannabis. We will keep a close eye on the bill, so stay tuned for future updates.