U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, after many long months of speculation, finally revealed his highly anticipated cannabis bill, which would finally end federal prohibition. This bill is very similar to its predecessor, the MORE Act of 2020, which found little support in the Senate last year, despite its successful passage through the House.
Schumer’s bill would finally take cannabis off the federal list of controlled substances. It would also impose federal taxes on cannabis delivery and other weed-related activities. It would further expunge cannabis records at the federal level. Moreover, it intends reinvesting all revenues collected by taxing marijuana into the communities most harmed by the decades-long War on Drugs.
Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act
The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, the name of this new bill, is brand new. Officially introduced by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), the bill has Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Schumer as co-sponsors. It differs hugely from previous efforts in Congress to legalize in one important way: It focuses upfront on inequality in the cannabis industry, a pervasive issue in states with legalized markets.
“The communities that have been most harmed by cannabis prohibition are benefiting the least from the legal marijuana marketplace,” the bill states first. “A legacy of racial and ethnic injustices, compounded by disproportionate collateral consequences of 80 years of cannabis prohibition enforcement, now limits participation in the industry.” This before even any mention of legalization.
‘SAFE Banking’ Inadequate
During the press conference announcing the bill’s introduction, Sen. Booker emphasized that previous efforts to legalize federally, such as the SAFE Banking Act, would fall second to legalizing with equity as primary goal. That measure, which failed in both chambers of Congress, would have made it possible for financial institutions, such as banks, to offer services to cannabusinesses without federal penalties.
Only existing companies would benefit from SAFE, which would do nothing to offer relief to those arrested each year for cannabis-related offenses. This amounts to well over half a million folks. As such, Booker vowed to block the banking act, and aggressively too, since it offers no equity measures or criminal justice relief to those who need it most. It only benefits the few.
Reinvesting in the Community
The War on Drugs has been devastating. It destroyed countless lives. The bill aims to address these injustices. It would reinvest cannabis taxes into these communities, those most hurt by prohibition. Called the Community Reinvestment Grant Program, it would grant funds to nonprofits most involved in expunging records, providing job training, education, reentry services, literacy programs, and such.
That is not all, however. The bill further instructs the federal Small Business Administration to get busy creating a Cannabis Opportunity Program. Under this program, the government will offer federally backed “Section 7(m)” loans to small cannabis companies, but only if their owners and operators come disadvantaged economically and socially by past prohibition laws.
What the Critics Say
Advocates for policy reform openly applaud the bill’s introduction. They even note the historical significance of the Majority Leader in the Senate being the one to lead the charge for prohibition’s end. However, this new bill has faults. Imperfections. Several policy advocates fast saw how this bill would still force cannabis testing on federal employees. Further, it will not pardon all cannabis offenders.
The Drug Policy Alliance and its Director of National Affairs, Maritza Perez, made it clear that her organization would actively work to fight the bill’s “exclusionary language.” Perez says that existing language would deny expungement for “certain individuals.” Most notably, these same individuals got the brunt of the War of Drugs and are, therefore, the ones most harmed by it.
Its exclusionary language expressly forbids expungement to those with enhanced sentences for past cannabis-related offenses. They would not be eligible. This exclusion, Perez explains, joined the MORE Act last year. It finds itself in Schumer’s new bill too. Honestly, fair is fair. Expungement for one should mean expungement for all. No exceptions.
Measures in the Bill
The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act will enable much more than the abovementioned, however. It would completely remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, not just reschedule it. Remove it. Further, it would remove the Drug Enforcement Agency from cannabis enforcement. Totally. They would have to find something else to do. Moreover:
- It names the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, the Treasury Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services as responsible for regulating its new cannabis laws.
- It will stop federal agents from discriminating against anybody using cannabis legally.
- It allocates the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs the job of creating an Opportunity Trust Fund.
- Create a framework for the Cannabis Opportunity Program, which would provide equity-eligible folks with small business loans to get them started in the industry.
- Create an Equitable Licensing Grant Program, which it tasks to the Small Business Administration. This will fund municipal and state efforts at licensing those most adversely affected by the War on Drugs.
- It would create a federal tax framework for cannabis. This would start at 10 percent for two years after legalization, and then slowly rise to 25 percent. Of course, this would be in addition to all local and state taxes already enforced.
Defining Equity Recipients
Because Schumer’s new legalization bill centers so heavily on equity, defining those harmed by the War on Drugs becomes essential. The bill sets the precedent for determining those individuals eligible for cannabis opportunities under its federal equity programs. To qualify, those harmed most by the War on Drugs must meet two important criteria:
- They must be folks earning 250 percent below the federal poverty line for at least the last five years and suffered arrest for possessing, using, manufacturing or growing cannabis.
- Families of those arrested in the above-described manner, such as parents, siblings, children, and spouses.
Weed Delivery El Segundo
Fortunately, cannabis delivery requires no federal approval in California. Business is already thriving. You can search “marijuana delivery near me” to find those closest to you. Just make sure to use licensed, legal companies. Those operating outside of the law can still land you in trouble with it, locally, and at both state and federal levels. The industry is growing. Times have never been more exciting for weed.