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Democratic Senators Seek Colleagues’ Input on Federal Cannabis Legalization

Three Democratic lawmakers committed to national cannabis policy reform are seeking comment on a federal marijuana legalization bill with a letter sent Thursday to their Senate colleagues. The letter written by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer of New York, Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey invites fellow senators “into the drafting process as we are working to finalize this legislation”.

“In order to appropriately address such a nuanced issue, we respectfully seek input, guidance and counsel from the chairs and ranking members of the relevant committees as well as senators who have faced the challenges and realities of legalization in their own states,” the Democrat said. senators wrote in their letter.

Schumer, Wyden and Booker noted that 37 states have now passed laws to legalize cannabis in one form or another, writing that “Alaska, Montana, Arizona and others have followed Colorado, Washington and Oregon by reforming their outdated cannabis laws. Even voters in a state as conservative as South Dakota have shown support for legalization.

“As more and more states decide to legalize cannabis for adult and medical use, the federal government has an important role to play. Hundreds of millions of Americans live in states that have legalized cannabis in one form or another while it remains illegal at the federal level,” the three senators added. “This discrepancy leads to confusion and uncertainty and raises important questions about criminal justice reform, economic development and small business growth, and public health and safety, which we believe require some type of federal response.”

Democrat bill released last year

The three Democrats have all worked to reform national marijuana laws with new legislation. Last year, they shared what they called a “discussion project” of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunities Act (CAAO). The 30-page document details several areas of federal cannabis regulation that are inconsistent with marijuana policy changes made at the state level and lays out a comprehensive plan to legalize marijuana at the federal level. The legislation would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and establish a framework for the expungement of federal cannabis convictions.

The measure also establishes a federal tax on marijuana products, with revenue dedicated to grant programs designed to invest in communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. The CAOA would also remove authority over marijuana regulation from the Drug Enforcement Administration and transfer most responsibilities to the Food and Drug Administration, with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau also assuming certain regulatory functions.

At a recent event in New York, Schumer said he would formally introduce the legislation as early as April, noting that he has made cannabis reform a top priority as Senate Majority Leader.

“As Majority Leader, I can set priorities,” Schumer noted. “It’s a priority for me.”

The senators noted in Thursday’s letter that they have received more than 1,800 stakeholder comments on the CAOA proposal so far, “many with substantive and detailed policy recommendations.” The senators added that in the coming weeks, many of the comments will be incorporated into the bill to reflect the views and voices of as many interested parties as possible. They closed the letter by inviting their Senate colleagues to join them in the process.

“We would deeply appreciate your willingness to share your expertise on the intersections between your committee jurisdictions, your states’ experiences, and global cannabis reform and invite you to join the process of perfecting this legislation,” they added. “We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter with you in the coming weeks.”

But Brookings Institution senior researcher John Hudak recently said Bloomberg Government that the chance of passing full legalization of marijuana does not seem strong.

“They see this as a real politically winning question, not just for themselves but also for the party as we approach midterms,” Hudak said of Democrats in Congress. “But the challenge, even for the idea of ​​putting the bill up for debate, is that the votes just aren’t there.”

Some Democrats believe that separate bills focusing on different aspects of marijuana policy reform are the best way to move forward on the issue with Republicans and President Joe Biden. An invoice, the Safe and Fair Banking Act (SAFE) by Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado, would allow financial institutions to offer banking services to cannabis businesses operating legally under state law. Last week, the House of Representatives approved the legislation for the sixth timeadding it to a bill aimed at improving economic competitiveness with China.

“We know the president has been somewhat reticent about this, so the phased approach we talked about earlier is probably best to present to the administration,” Perlmutter said. noted Last week.

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