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  • Writer's pictureCWJ

The Day Has Arrived! U.S. Senate to Debate First Federal Bill to Legalize Cannabis

After more than 50 years of being illegal in the United States, a bill that would regulate the use of cannabis at the federal level was introduced in the Senate. A historic step that had been long awaited and discussed by members of both Houses of Congress for several years. However, it was Senators Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker, and Ron Wyden, representatives of New York, New Jersey, and Oregon, respectively, who introduced in the Senate their legislative proposal for cannabis called the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA, Act) on July 21, 2022.

The bill puts forward the idea of cannabis-related businesses being able to access the banking system nationwide. It also considers revisions to the rights of cannabis industry workers, federal responsibility for establishing a drunk driving standard, expulsions, and penalties for possessing or distributing large quantities of cannabis without a federal permit. Also, this bill would create a new federal definition for hemp that would increase the allowable THC ratio by dry weight to 0.7%, instead of the current 0.3%, would have all THC isomers included in that total, not just delta-9 THC.

Among its main points is to remove cannabis from the substances under a regulation under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), run by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Instead, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) within the Department of the Treasury would regulate cannabis in the United States.

In addition to regularizing all cannabis ventures and businesses and giving them a presence on the bench, this legislation proposes an excise tax of 5% to 12.5% for small and medium-sized cannabis producers. An initial tax of 10% would be applied to the b cannabis businesses and would gradually be increased to 25%. This would create opportunities for the growth of the sector in the United States.

Another highlight of this bill is the vindication and reparation for the victims of the War on Drugs, a war that mainly affects people of color, minorities, and other vulnerable groups that have been historically excluded and marginalized in U.S. society. Precisely, Senator Booker points out, "As more states legalize cannabis and work to reverse the many injustices that the failed War on Drugs imposed on black, brown, and low-income people, the federal government continues to woefully lag." The New Jersey State Senator adds, "With strong restorative justice provisions for communities affected by this war, support for small cannabis businesses, and federal expungement of cannabis offenses, this bill reflects common sense drug policy that is long overdue."

A Historical Step, but Still Waiting for the Final Push

Although this historic and long-awaited bill would regulate cannabis, generate opportunities in the sector, and contain reparations for those in U.S. society victims of the War on Drugs, the document has not had the expected reception among the rest of the members of the Senate. In particular, Republican senators such as the representative of Arkansas, Tom Cotton, described the legalization of cannabis as a "huge gift to cartels and gangs".

The historic bill starts the much-needed debate on cannabis legalization at the federal level in the U.S. Senate. A milestone that makes visible a phenomenon of criminalization and exclusion of vulnerable groups, while the economic benefits are limited only to the states, whose legislation is encouraged to take the step of legalization. While the bill continues to gain support to reach a vote in the Senate, the campaign for citizens to express their support continues to be active. If you are a U.S. resident and want your senator to vote for the bill, contact them to express your support for the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA).

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