The Comprehensive Legislation Would End Federal Cannabis Prohibition By Removing Cannabis From The Controlled Substances Act; Empower States To Create Their Own Cannabis Laws; Ensure Federal Regulation Protects Public Health And Safety; And Prioritize Restorative And Economic Justice
Senators Refined And Expanded Their Discussion Draft Released Last Year After Receiving More Than 1,800 Comments And Working With Various Senate Committees
Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), today introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), comprehensive legislation that would end the harmful and out-of-touch federal prohibition on cannabis by removing cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and empowering states to implement their own cannabis laws. HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and HSGAC Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-MI) also co-sponsored the legislation.
The legislation establishes a federal regulatory framework to protect public health and safety, prioritizes restorative and economic justice to help undo the decades of harm caused by the failed 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 CAOA was first released as a discussion draft last year, alongside a request for comments from stakeholders. After receiving more than 1,800 comments and working with various Senate committees, the senators refined and expanded on the discussion draft proposal, which they are formally introducing today. A full summary of the revisions to the CAOA discussion draft can be found HERE.
“For far too long, the federal prohibition on cannabis and the War on Drugs has been a war on people, and particularly people of color,” said Majority Leader Schumer. “The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act will be a catalyst for change by removing cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances, protecting public health and safety, and expunging the criminal records of those with low-level cannabis offenses, providing millions with a new lease on life. A majority of Americans now support legalizing cannabis, and Congress must act by working to end decades of over-criminalization. It is time to end the federal prohibition on cannabis.”
“It's no longer a question of ‘if cannabis should be legal.’ The states are moving ahead, and not only do the overwhelming majority of American people support legalization, they now live in a state where some form of cannabis is legal,” Senate Finance Committee Chair Wyden said. “I'd ask my colleagues in the Senate to think long and hard about what keeping the federal government stuck in yesteryear means for public health and safety. By failing to act, the federal government is empowering the illicit cannabis market, it's ruining lives and propping up deeply rooted racism in our criminal justice system, it's holding back small cannabis businesses from growing and creating jobs in their communities. Cannabis legalization is here, and Congress needs to get with the program.”
“As more states legalize cannabis and work towards reversing the many injustices the failed War on Drugs levied against Black, Brown, and low-income people, the federal government continues to lag woefully behind,” said Senator Booker. “With strong restorative justice provisions for communities impacted by the drug war, support for small cannabis businesses, and expungement of federal cannabis offenses, this bill reflects long overdue, common sense drug policy. I am proud to have partnered with Senators Schumer and Wyden to introduce this critical legislation. The support that we have received from committee chairs and outside groups underscores the historic nature of this bill and the urgent need for Congress to pass it.”
“It is long past time the federal government catches up to Washington state when it comes to cannabis laws,” said HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray. “This legislation is about justice, strengthening our economy, and bringing the federal government into the 21st century. This legislation will undo deeply unfair and racially unjust laws that have disproportionately harmed mostly people of color—that’s hugely important. This bill will also strengthen our economy by finally recognizing the cannabis industry and modernizing federal regulations. I’m committed to making sure this legislation works for Washington state—where we have led the nation on common sense cannabis laws.”
“This legislation makes important changes to bring federal cannabis policy in line with where the majority of the country already is - and in line with what Michiganders have already voted for,” said HSGAC Committee Chairman Peters. “By legalizing cannabis at the federal level, we can protect public health and safety, support cannabis businesses as they continue to grow, create jobs, and seek safe, reliable access to banking services, and right past wrongs for many Americans – particularly people of color – who have been unduly punished for minor, non-violent cannabis offenses.”
The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act:
Bill text can be found HERE.
Summary of introduced CAOA can be found HERE.
Summary of revisions to the CAOA discussion draft can be found HERE.