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Schumer Calls for Bipartisan Support for Cannabis Reform Bill

February 10, 2022 by Dan McCue
Schumer Calls for Bipartisan Support for Cannabis Reform Bill
Cannabis plants. (Photo by Matthew Brodeur via UnSplash)

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday called on members on both sides of the aisle to join an effort to draft and finalize a comprehensive cannabis reform bill.

Schumer joined with Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., last summer in introducing framework legislation that would end federal criminalization of cannabis, “right the wrongs” of the federal war on drugs, and “end decades of harm inflicted on communities of color across the country.”

In a Dear Colleague letter sent to all 100 senators Thursday morning, the trio of Democrats say they hope to move from their framework to a solid piece of legislation that could be considered by the Senate in the near future.

Schumer later expanded on the letter’s contents in remarks he delivered on the Senate floor.

“Today, hundreds of millions of Americans live in states — both blue and red — where cannabis has been legalized in some way. It’s long past time for the federal government to catch up,” he said.

“This is about individual freedom and about basic fairness,” he continued. “For decades federal cannabis laws have caused immense damage to millions of Americans, particularly Black and Hispanic people who have been unfairly targeted by these laws. 

“We need to change that, we need to create opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses to legitimately pursue new opportunities, and comprehensive federal cannabis legislation is critical, critical to reaching that goal,” Schumer said.

Schumer, Booker and Wyden distributed a “discussion draft” of what they called the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act to their colleagues last year.

If adopted as written then, the proposals would end the federal prohibition on cannabis by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act, allow states to continue to set their own cannabis laws, establish the Food and Drug Administration as the  lead federal regulator of the manufacture and marketing of cannabis products, and more broadly “address the impact of the war on drugs through expungement, resentencing, opportunity trust fund programs and Small Business Administration programs.”

The discussion draft would also prohibit individuals from being denied any federal public benefit because of cannabis use or possession of cannabis, or on the basis of a conviction for a cannabis offense; prohibit federal agencies from using past or present cannabis use as a basis for denying or rescinding a security clearance; and impose an excise tax on cannabis products, starting at 10% in year one, and increasing to 15%, 20% and 25% in successive years, with a per-ounce tax on cannabis flower or a per-milligram of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) tax beginning in year five. 

Finally, the proposal would create a legal pathway for the creation, sale and marketing of cannabidiol in dietary supplements.

In floating the proposal last year, Schumer conceded he didn’t then have the votes to pass such a sweeping overhaul of the federal government’s current prohibitions on cannabis.

He would need 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster — if all 50 Senate Democrats lined up to support the measure. Schumer gave no indication Thursday whether he believes the measure has that support, let alone that of at least 10 Republicans who would also have to support the legislation.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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