Overview of New Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill

The reform of marijuana laws in the United States has slowly been unfolding, and its been a long time since the first states have decided to make cannabis legal. The movement has been slow, but has picked up speed recently with the 2016 election and the recent legalization of recreational use in several states. A new bill that has just been filed would make federal marijuana laws all but disappear, and would remove all restrictions on its use across the country.

The new Senate Bill – or S.3713, the Marijuana Effective Drug Abatement Act of 2012 – is rolling out and contains the following language: This Act is intended to provide, consistent with the United States Constitution and laws of the United States and the States, for the regulation of marijuana in a manner that will best promote the public health and safety, and, in particular, will help reduce the prevalence of use of marijuana among persons under the age of 21 years of age and will otherwise reduce the social, financial and law enforcement costs resulting from the use of marijuana by those persons.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Cory Booker and Senator Ron Wyden held a press conference this week to introduce a draft of the Cannabis Management and Opportunity Act, a new law that would end the federal ban on cannabis.

In its current form, the bill would make the following changes to federal cannabis policy

  • Removing Cannabis from the list of controlled substances by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act;
  • Let states develop their own cannabis policies, as they do with alcohol;
  • Delete federal records of arrests and convictions for nonviolent cannabis offenses and allow for new convictions;
  • establish a regulatory framework and a federal excise tax on cannabis
  • Create a grant program to fund non-profits that help people affected by the war on cannabis, as well as programs that help applicants and states access funding for gender equity programs.

For reasons of judicial reform, justice, individual liberty and countless others, it is time to respect the will of the American people and legalize cannabis, the congressman said. I am encouraged by Booker, Schumer and Wyden’s bill, which is a promising first step toward approval in the Senate, and hope that it will lead to negotiations and bipartisan support for an inclusive and just legal cannabis industry.

In May of this year, Representative Jerrold Nadler reintroduced the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Assistance Act (MORE). The bill passed the House of Representatives last year, but made no headway in the Senate.

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed the Safe and Fair Enforcement Act (SAFE), a bill that would prevent federal regulators from punishing financial institutions that provide services to legal cannabis businesses in the states. The Senate version of the bill has been introduced and currently has 39 co-signers.

As of November 2020, eight states have passed ballot initiatives or legislation to legalize, regulate and tax adult-use cannabis. This brings the total number of states that have legalized drugs to 19 (one state, South Dakota, has suspended the law pending a court decision).

According to a 2020 Gallup poll, 68% of Americans support legalizing marijuana, including nearly half of Republicans.

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