For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Congress Drafts New Bill to Deschedule Cannabis and Increase Cannabis Research

July 27, 2021

On July 14th, 2021 Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) announced a draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. It is important to note that this announcement is only an initial draft and there will certainly be some notable changes to the 163-page bill before it is formally introduced.

The bill is not expected to pass in its current form as Schumer does not have the full support of the Democratic caucus, let alone enough Republican support to get the 60 votes required to pass in the Senate. Even with changes to the bill, most Republicans and moderate Democrats like Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) do not support federal legalization of cannabis. Shaheen said, “There is still not enough data on marijuana use and whether that is a gateway drug in my mind to be able to make a decision to legalize it.” This sentiment underscores the importance of the research being done at centers around the country like Drexel University’s Medical Cannabis Research Center.

The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act contains the following features:

  • Federally deschedule cannabis – completely removing it from the controlled substances list within 60 days of enactment.
  • Expunge prior convictions.
  • Allow people to petition for resentencing.
  • Maintain the authority of states to set their own cannabis policies, including prohibition or medical purposes only.
  • Authorize physicians with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to issue recommendations for medical cannabis to veterans.
  • The federal government would no longer be able to discriminate against cannabis consumers seeking federal housing, food, education or health benefits.
  • Allow certain interstate commerce while clearly restricting states from stopping businesses from transporting cannabis across their borders.
  • Remove collateral consequences like immigration-related penalties for people who have been criminalized over the plant.
  • Implement a graduated 10% federal sales tax that could grow to 25% in the 5th year of legalization.
    • These taxes would be allocated to expanded medical research related to cannabis, restorative justice initiatives and tax rebates for small businesses with revenues less than $20 million per year.
  • Transfer all regulatory authority over from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).
  • Create three grant programs focused on restorative justice established under the bill:
    • The first would be distributed through a newly established Cannabis Justice Office under the Department of Justice (DOJ) to fund nonprofits that provide services to individuals adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, such as job training, reentry services and legal aid, among other services. 
    • The second would be run through the Small Business Administration (SBA) and would provide funding to eligible states and localities to make loans to assist small businesses in the cannabis industry owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. 
    • The third would establish the Equitable Licensing Grant Program to provide funding to eligible states and localities to implement cannabis licensing programs that minimize barriers for individuals adversely affected by the War on Drugs.

It is important to note that states and localities must take steps to create an automatic process to expunge criminal records for cannabis offenses and violations for individuals under criminal supervision for cannabis offenses to be eligible for these grant programs.

The bill further directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to start studies into cannabis policy. This includes a review of federal laws, regulations, and policies, to identify additional areas in need of change, including a study on replacing the term ‘marijuana’ and ‘marihuana’ with ‘cannabis’ through the U.S. Code and regulations. It must also study the demographics of those with federal cannabis convictions, and demographic data on business owners and employees in the cannabis industry as well as an evaluation of the societal impact of legalization in states where adult-use cannabis laws are enacted.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would be required to work with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on ways to promote research into cannabis impacts, including a mandate for HHS to collaborate with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on data collection for cannabis-impaired driving while also supporting research into an impairment standard for driving under the influence of cannabis.

Links to relevant articles can be found below:

Schumer Proposes Federal Decriminalization of Marijuana (New York Times)

Here Are The Full Details Of The New Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill From Chuck Schumer And Senate Colleagues (Marijuana Moment)

Pennsylvania Court Holds Medical Marijuana Act Allows Employees to Sue for Discrimination (National Law Review)