Senate Leadership Pushes End of Federal Prohibition Of Cannabis

By Terry Hacienda, The Fresh Toast on

Published in Cannabis Daily

Taking a cue from the public, Senate leadership is putting forward a bill to end the federal prohibition of cannabis.

In a big week for the marijuana industry and a surprise to most of the industry, Senators Schumer (D-NY), (Murray D-WA), Wyden (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and 14 others have deduced to follow the public and make a change.  As of today, Senate leadership pushes end of federal prohibition of cannabis.

Senator Patty Murray, a senior member and former Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) has long been a champion of veterans.  This falls in line with PTSD treatments and with the American Medical Association’s backing of rescheduling and more medical research to see how the cannabis plant can help more patients.

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They have reintroduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), legislation that would end the harmful federal prohibition of cannabis by removing cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances and empowering states to create their own laws. This legislation would be a historic step toward rectifying the failed policies of the War on Drugs and would help federal law better reflect the will of the vast majority of Americans, 91% of whom believe that cannabis should be legalized for either adult or medical use.


“It is far past time that the federal government catch up to Washington state when it comes to cannabis laws. This legislation is about bringing cannabis regulations into the 21st century with common-sense reforms to promote public safety and public health, and undo deeply unjust laws that have for decades disproportionally harmed people of color,” said Senator Murray.  “The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act will help set us on a safe and responsible pathway to legalization—I’ll keep working to secure the necessary support to get it done.”  The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act establishes a federal regulatory framework to protect public health and safety, prioritizes restorative and economic justice to help undo harm caused by the War on Drugs, ends discrimination in the provision of federal benefits on the basis of cannabis use, provides major investments for cannabis research, and strengthens worker protections. By decriminalizing cannabis at the federal level, the CAOA also ensures that state-legal cannabis businesses or those in adjacent industries will no longer be denied access to bank accounts or financial services simply because of their ties to cannabis. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act: Protects public health by:Establishing a Center for Cannabis Products to regulate production, labeling, distribution, sales and other manufacturing and retail elements of the cannabis industry.Instructing the FDA to establish standards for labeling of cannabis products, including potency, doses, servings, place of manufacture, and directions for use.Establishing programs and funding to prevent youth cannabis use.Increasing funding for comprehensive opioid, stimulant, and substance use disorder treatment.Protects public safety by:Removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and eliminating federal prohibitions in states that have chosen to legalize medical cannabis, or adult-use cannabis.Retaining federal prohibitions on trafficking of cannabis in violation of state law; establishing a grant program to help departments combat black market cannabis.Requiring the Department of Transportation (DOT) to create standards for cannabis-impaired driving.Directing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to collect data on cannabis-impaired driving, create educational materials on “best practices,” and carry out media campaigns.Incentivizing states to adopt cannabis open container prohibitions.Regulates and taxes cannabis by:Transferring federal jurisdiction over cannabis to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).Eliminating the tax code’s restriction on cannabis businesses claiming deductions for business expenses, and implementing an excise tax on cannabis products.Establishing market competition rules meant to protect independent producers, wholesalers, and retailers and prevent anti-competitive behavior.Encourages cannabis research by:Requiring the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study and report on metrics that may be impacted by cannabis legalization.Requiring the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct or support research on the impacts of cannabis.Requiring the VA to carry out a series of clinical trials studying the effects of medical cannabis on the health outcomes of veterans diagnosed with chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.Requiring the Bureau of Labor Statistics to regularly compile and publicize data on the demographics of business owners and employees in the cannabis industry.Establishing grants to build up cannabis research capacity at institutions of higher education, with a particular focus on minority-serving institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.Prioritizes restorative and economic justice by:Using federal tax revenue to fund an Opportunity Trust Fund to reinvest in communities and individuals most harmed by the failed War on Drugs.Establishing a Cannabis Justice Office at the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice ProgramsEstablishing a grant program to provide funding to help minimize barriers to cannabis licensing and employment for individuals adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.Establishing expedited FDA review of drugs containing cannabis manufactured by small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.Directing the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to establish a grant program to provide communities whose residents have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs with additional funding to address the housing, economic, and community development needs of such residents.Initiating automatic expungement of federal non-violent cannabis offenses and allows an individual currently serving time in federal prison for nonviolent cannabis offense to petition a court for resentencing.Disallowing the denial of any benefits or protections under immigration law to any noncitizen based on their use or possession of cannabis.Prevents discrimination in the provision of federal benefits against people who use cannabis.Strengthens workers’ rights by:Removing unnecessary federal employee pre-employment and random drug testing for cannabisEnsuring worker protections for those employed in the cannabis industry.Establishing grants for community-based education, outreach, and enforcement of workers’ rights in the cannabis industry. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Gary Peters (D-MI), Tina Smith (D-MN), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), John Fetterman (D-PA), and Laphonza Butler (D-CA).

Senator Murray has been a leader on common-sense cannabis reforms. She helped introduce the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act last Congress, and in 2017, she first introduced the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act which would allow state-legal cannabis businesses to access banking services. She has reintroduced the bill multiple times and is pushing hard for its passage. An updated version of the legislation—the Safe and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act of 2023, which Murray also cosponsored—passed through committee after a bipartisan markup last fall.

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