Leaders in the U.S. Thursday Senate introduced sweeping legislation that would end federal prohibitions on marijuana more than 50 years after Congress made the drug illegal.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) would decriminalize weed on the federal level and allow states to set their own marijuana laws without fear of punishment from Washington, according to media reports.
Just over a year after first unveiling a draft version of the cannabis reform legislation, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden and Sen. Cory Booker formally filed the CAOA. The legislation is expected to shape the conversation around cannabis legalization going forward and portions of it are likely to find their way into other bills that could pass before the end of the year, according to Marijuana Moment.
The legislation includes both Democratic and Republican priorities: It expunges federal cannabis-related records and creates funding for law enforcement departments to fight illegal cannabis cultivation. It also establishes grant programs for small business owners entering the industry who are from communities disproportionately hurt by past drug laws, requires the Department of Transportation to research and develop a nationwide standard for marijuana-impaired driving, and restricts the marketing of cannabis to minors.
While marijuana legalization has spread rapidly across the U.S. over the past decade, Capitol Hill has not transitioned as quickly. Nineteen states now allow anyone at least 21 years old to possess and use the drug, and 37 states have established medical marijuana programs. National polls have consistently shown that roughly two-thirds of Americans back marijuana legalization, and support is even higher among younger voters.
The U.S. House of Representatives has twice passed its own sweeping marijuana legalization package, known as the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act. That legislation does not include much of the regulatory structure that’s part of the Senate bill, and also has a different tax rate.
And even if a bill were somehow to pass, it is unclear if President Joe Biden would sign it. He has repeatedly said he does not support federal weed legalization.