The Marijuana Policy Project submitted comments to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) regarding a preliminary draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, a new bill that would end federal cannabis prohibition.
Statement below from Karen O’Keefe, state policies director at the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s leading cannabis policy reform organization:
“We are grateful for the leadership of Sens. Booker, Schumer, and Wyden to end an eight-decades long policy failure and appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback as the sponsoring offices refine the bill. Federal prohibition urgently needs to end. It has wasted billions of dollars while upending tens of thousands of lives — disproportionately those of Black and Brown Americans — over a plant that is safer than alcohol.
“We are enthusiastic about the goals of the CAO Act Discussion Draft. We applaud the draft for legalizing cannabis under federal law; directing a substantial percent of the federal tax proceeds to benefit individuals and communities that have been adversely impacted by the war on drugs; providing that cannabis use and cannabis convictions do not adversely affect immigration, federal public benefits, and eligibility for a security clearance; making legalization retroactive, including expungement and re-sentencing and incentivizing state expungement; authorizing the Department of Veterans Affairs and Indian Health Service providers to recommend medical cannabis in accordance with state programs; and promoting social equity in licensing and collecting demographic data on cannabis business owners and employees.
“While the CAO Act Discussion Draft includes numerous praiseworthy provisions, we believe the regulatory aspects need significant clarification and revision to avoid unintended consequences that would derail the hard work states have done for decades. Our two major areas of concern are: the possible upending of state licensing and regulatory systems — driving sales underground — and the impact on medical cannabis access, including for those under the age of 21.
“Additionally, the CAO Act includes several provisions that reduce the harms the federal government inflicts on cannabis consumers. But it retains others, which disproportionately harm people of color. We strongly urge the sponsoring offices to more comprehensively do away with the harm inflicted on cannabis consumers, and individuals with past convictions, including by expanding expungement and re-sentencing provisions, ensuring parole and probation are not revoked for cannabis, and ending federal drug testing for cannabis.
“The vast majority of Americans support legalizing cannabis for adults. Congress must work to swiftly end federal cannabis prohibition through an approach that starts with a framework of deference to states and includes a slow transition, avoids burdens that will drive the market for cannabis products back underground, and stops destroying lives — disproportionately those of Black and Brown Americans — over a plant that is safer than alcohol.
“We look forward to continuing our work with the sponsoring offices on the complex issue of federal legalization and equitable regulation.”