New bill to legalise Cannabis

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U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act on July 21. The bill would remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and enable states to implement their own cannabis laws.

“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,” Sen. Schumer said in a press release. “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.”

The CAOA, released as a discussion draft last year, received more than 1,800 comments from stakeholders.

The cannabis industry, which employs almost 430,000 workers, generated more than $25 billion in sales in 2021, according to a summary of the bill. By 2025, it is estimated that the cannabis industry could exceed $45 billion in annual sales.

The bill would establish cannabis health and safety standards under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In terms of taxation, the bill would regulate and tax cannabis by transferring federal jurisdiction over cannabis from the Drug Enforcement Agency to the FDA and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau within the Treasury Department, which would implement a regulatory regime similar to alcohol and tobacco, according to the release.

In addition, the bill would promote more federal research into the impacts of cannabis on health and public safety by establishing clinical trials through the VA to study the effects of medical cannabis on the health outcomes of veterans.

Another important point is that it would remove federal employee pre-employment and random drug testing for cannabis, “while preserving appropriate drug testing for certain sensitive categories of employees where continued testing is determined necessary, including national security, law enforcement, and commercial transportation” and ensuring worker protections for those employed in the cannabis industry, according to the release.

“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,” Sen. Wyden said in the release. “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.”

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