A triumvirate of Senate Democrats wants you to smoke ‘em If you got ‘em. Legally, that is.
Three Democratic senators released the heavily anticipated Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act on Thursday, which seeks to decriminalize marijuana federally and grant states the ability to create their own laws without the threat of federal government intervention. Even though weed is currently legal for medical uses in 37 states (and legal recreationally in 19) the drug is still banned on the federal level, a mismatch that’s led to a series of financial, regulatory, and potentially legal headaches for marijuana business owners across the country.
The bill’s authors, Senators Chuck Schumer, Ron Wyden, and Cory Booker, drafted the legislation more than a year ago. According to Politico, the proposed bills seeks to assuage lawmakers of varying political persuasions by both creating new funding for law enforcement to combat illegal cannabis cultivation while also expunging federal records related to cannabis charges. That second measure would represent a tectonic shift for criminal justice reform advocates. While hard data on the issue vary widely, Pew Research estimates law enforcement made around 663,000 arrests for marijuana-related offenses in 2018. That reportedly amounts to nearly half of all drug arrests that year.
Thursday’s proposed bill would create a grant to help small business owners entering the cannabis industry who come from communities hit particularly hard by past drug laws. At the same time, it would also call on the Department of Transportation to develop national standards for marijuana-impaired driving like the one that currently exists for alcohol.
Even though polls repeatedly show legal recreational marijuana garners massive public support, the bill nonetheless faces a steep uphill battle thanks in large part to a minority group of hesitant Republicans (where have we heard that before) and a handful of Democrats, including West Virginia’s de facto Republican Senator Joe Manchin. To put all that in perspective, a separate Pew research poll released last year found a majority (60%) of U.S. adults said they thought marijuana should be legal for recreational and medical use. Just 8% said they thought it should be illegal entirely. A separate Gallup poll released last year found 68% support for legal weed amongst U.S. adults.