A couple of weeks ago majority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) proposed a draft bill to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. Currently, it is illegal to distribute or possess marijuana. The Controlled Substances Act, signed into legislation in 1970, also makes it illegal to grow marijuana. There aren’t any medical or recreational exceptions at the federal level to these policies.
Many states have legalized both medicinal and recreational marijuana usage in recent years, Colorado and Washington being the first to do so in 2012. Currently 36 states allow medicinal cannabis usage, while 18 states; including Washington, D.C. also permit recreational usage.
Since 1973, 27 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized recreational usage for small amounts. The amount an individual can possess varies by state. In 2018, the Farm Bill was passed to allow low THC (less than .3%) hemp products like cannabidiol (CBD) federally.
Decriminalization at the federal level
Sen. Schumer presented a 163-page draft of the bill along with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) on July 14th. The draft bill is titled, “Cannabis Administration and Opportunities Act.”
The document details several different calls to action towards the end of cannabis prohibition. The point of greatest significance within the bill is the complete removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Other provisions proposed by the bill include:
- The recognition of state cannabis laws
- Establishing a minimum age required to purchase cannabis (21)
- Implementation of a daily purchase limit (10z)
- Research on physical and psychological impact of cannabis usage
- Grant programs dedicated to assist those negatively affected by cannabis prohibition
- Publishing of cannabis business demographic data
- Expungement for juvenile non-violent cannabis offenses
- Resentencing for adult non-violent cannabis offenses
- VA and HIS medicinal marijuana recommendation for patients
There are quite a few concerns surrounding the new bill. If passed, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act could lay the foundation for the end of cannabis prohibition. Many Republican Party members suggest that the decriminalization of weed would be premature on account of limited research on the effects of cannabis usage.
There are also several contradictory points and missing pieces of information throughout the bill that could make it difficult to pass. One section of the details a plan that would “prohibit cannabis from being considered a controlled substance for purposes of immigration laws. Another section of the bill pushes to provide grants for the localities and states for substance abuse instead of limiting funds to opioid abuse.
In order for the bill to pass, Sen. Schumer will need to gather 60 votes. The Democratic Party holds a slight majority in the senate. This might indicate the possibility of the bills’ advancement. Several Republican Party members also support descheduling cannabis.
In May, House Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Don Young (R-AK) introduced the Common Sense Cannabis Reform for Veterans, Small Businesses, and Medical Professionals Act (this bill shares many of the same provisions however, does not call for reform or equity opportunities). 10 Republican votes are needed to move forward. Sen. Schumer will need at least 10 republican votes for the bill to pass senate.