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Senate Majority Leader Unveils Bill To End Cannabis Prohibition

July 15, 2021

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, along with Senators Cory Booker and Ron Wyden, announced their bill to deschedule cannabis at the federal level yesterday. Called the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, the legislation remains in draft form and will be circulated among Senate Democrats for feedback and revisions before being formally introduced sometime later this year. “This is a historic day,” Booker said at a joint press conference. “This is the first time in United States history the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate is leading the call to end prohibition of marijuana.”

The 163-page bill is both comprehensive and ambitious. Its most notable provision is to fully remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and transfer authority over it from the DEA to FDA. While the FDA would be responsible for health, safety, and product oversight, taxes would be administered by the TTB, with jurisdiction “generally following similar agency responsibilities established for alcohol and tobacco,” according to the official summary. The bill would also eliminate the ban on interstate commerce and even explicitly allow cannabis to be transported through hold-out prohibition states from one legal market to another. Taxes would begin at 10% and progressively rise to 25% over the ensuing five years.

While the bill itself marks a historic step for the U.S. cannabis industry, its chances for passage are shaky. Schumer admitted they are previewing the bill as a draft so it can be further shaped in an effort to win support from reticent members of the caucus. “This is going to be a process,” he said. “We don’t have the votes necessary at this point but we have a large majority for it. We’re going to ask our colleagues ‘What can you support here?’ We’re going to get something done.”

The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA), which came out in favor of legalization in 2018 and earlier this year laid out a series of recommendations for federal legalization in a policy brief, called the bill “a comprehensive and well-thought-out jumping-off point to responsibly and safely ending the federal prohibition of cannabis in America.”—Danny Sullivan

Read SND Cannabis Edition, hitting inboxes every Tuesday, to keep up with the latest developments in the emerging cannabis industry.

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