On July 14, 2021, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced draft legislation to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. This historic legislation proposition was presented by Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Cory Booker (D-N.Y.), and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore). These senators announced the draft legislation while focusing on social justice reforms the bill would sponsor.
Senator Schumer further stated that he would leverage his position as majority leader to make this legislation a top priority in the Senate, as cannabis is already legal in 19 states.
Below, we break down what this historical draft legislation entails and examine the history of cannabis prohibition in the United States.
A Historic Draft: The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act
The proposed bill, known as The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, would lift the federal prohibition on cannabis and allow compliant cannabis businesses to have access to financial services such as bank accounts and loans.
If approved, this legislation will remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, first implemented by President Richard Nixon in 1970. Moreover, this legislation would allow for states to craft their cannabis laws as they see fit and would seek to expunge the federal records of arrests and convictions for people convicted of a non-violent drug offense. Financially, the bill would create a regulatory framework for a tax on cannabis products and establish grant programs to fund nonprofit organizations. This financial framework aims to help equity applicants and states gain access to funds for the grant programs. The proposed legislation also creates provisions to facilitate medical research and to repair the harms of criminalization.
The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act has not been formally introduced to the Senate yet, as it is still in the early stages of development. Other influential lawmakers will contribute their input when drafting the final version of this bill. Senators Schumer, Booker, and Wyden announced that they would be taking input from lawmakers, advocates for marijuana usage, public health experts, law enforcement, and the cannabis industry until September 1, 2021.
The History of United States Marijuana Prohibition
During the announcement of the bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated, “At long last, we are taking steps in the Senate to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs.” Many Senate Democrats condemn the war on drugs and its harmful legacy on minority groups in the United States. The history of the war on drugs, however, predates the term.
During the early twentieth century, many states outlawed the usage and sale of marijuana products. However, the first step towards federal criminalization was The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. This law established strict regulations and penalties regarding the taxation and sale of marijuana products, including incarceration and a fine of 2000 dollars. In 1967, lawmakers amended The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which imposed even stricter penalties and fines on those who possessed and sold cannabis products.
The cultural stigma around marijuana increased after President Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act into law in 1970. Drugs were assigned into five “schedules” to determine their potential for abuse. Marijuana was classified as a Schedule 1 banned drug, the tier for the most addictive and dangerous drugs. In 1971, President Nixon declared what is now known as “The War on Drugs.” President Ronald Reagan continued President Nixon’s legacy in the 1980s, implementing harsher punishments for drug crimes and possession. Nancy Reagan, the former First Lady, founded the “Just Say No” advertising campaign, which discouraged children from engaging in drug use. A significant increase in incarceration rates for non-violent drug offenses occurred during President Reagan’s presidency.
President Joe Biden’s potential support for the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act is a pressing issue for its success. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said shortly after Schumer’s announcement that President Joe Biden has not yet endorsed any new marijuana legislation. President Biden has previously stated his support for the decriminalization of marijuana; however, it is uncertain whether the President’s claimed support will result in final passage of any marijuana decriminalization legislation.
Marijuana lawyer Chelsie Spencer has years of experience as an attorney in the cannabis industry. Deeply involved in the marijuana community, she provides legal representation to several CBD, hemp, and cannabis businesses. Her expertise in the cannabis business and legal fields is unrivaled, as well as her knowledge of intellectual property law and transactional issues. Contact Ritter Spencer or give us a call at 214.295.5074 for more information.