Senate leadership is pushing for an end to the federal ban on cannabis

In a big week for the marijuana industry and a surprise to most of the industry, Senators Schumer (D-NY), (Murray D-WA), Wyden (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and 14 others have done this derived from following the public and bringing about a change. Starting today, Senate leadership is pushing for an end to federal cannabis prohibition.

Senator Patty Murray, a ranking member and former chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, has long been an advocate for veterans. This is consistent with PTSD treatments and with the American Medical Association's support for rescheduling and more medical research to find out how the cannabis plant can help more patients.

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They reintroduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), a bill that would end the harmful federal ban on cannabis by removing cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances and allowing states to enact their own laws. This legislation would be a historic step toward correcting the failed policies of the War on Drugs and would help federal laws better reflect the will of the vast majority of Americans, 91% of whom believe that cannabis should be used either for adults or for adult use medical use should be legalized.

“It is long past time for the federal government to catch up with Washington state when it comes to cannabis laws. This legislation is about bringing cannabis regulations into the 21st century with common-sense reforms to promote public safety and health and undo deeply unjust laws that have disproportionately harmed people of color for decades,” said Senator Murray. “The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act will help us chart a safe and responsible path to legalization – I will continue to work to get the support we need to make this happen.”

Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act establishes a federal regulatory framework to protect public health and safety, emphasizes restorative and economic justice to address harms caused by the War on Drugs, and ends discrimination in the awarding of federal benefits based on cannabis use major investments in cannabis research and strengthening worker protections. By decriminalizing cannabis at the federal level, the CAOA also ensures that state-legal cannabis businesses or those in related industries will no longer be denied access to bank accounts or financial services solely because of their ties to cannabis.

The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act:

  • Protects public health by:
    • Establishment of a Cannabis Products Center to regulate the production, labeling, distribution, sales and other manufacturing and retail elements of the cannabis industry.
    • Directing the FDA to establish standards for labeling cannabis products, including potency, dosage, servings, place of manufacture, and directions for use.
    • Establish programs and funding to prevent youth cannabis use.
    • Increase funding for comprehensive treatment of opioid, stimulant and substance use disorders.
  • Protects public safety by:
    • Removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and eliminating federal prohibitions in states that have chosen to legalize medical or adult-use cannabis.
    • maintaining federal prohibitions on cannabis trafficking in violation of state law; Establish a grant program to help authorities combat black market cannabis.
    • Calling on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to create standards for driving under the influence of cannabis.
    • Directing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to collect data on cannabis driving, produce best practices educational materials, and conduct media campaigns.
    • Incentives states to implement bans on open cannabis containers.
  • Regulates and taxes cannabis by:
    • Transferring federal jurisdiction over cannabis to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).
    • Repeal the tax code's restriction on cannabis businesses from claiming deductions for business expenses and impose an excise tax on cannabis products.
    • Establishing market competition rules should protect independent manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers and prevent anti-competitive behavior.
  • Promotes cannabis research by:
    • Requiring the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study and report on metrics that could be affected by cannabis legalization.
    • Commitment of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct or support research on the effects of cannabis.
    • The VA must conduct a series of clinical trials examining the effects of medical cannabis on the health outcomes of veterans diagnosed with chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.
    • Requiring the Bureau of Labor Statistics to regularly collect and publish data on the demographics of business owners and employees in the cannabis industry.
    • Establish grants to build cannabis research capacity in higher education institutions, with a particular focus on minority-serving institutions and historically black colleges and universities.
  • Prioritizes restorative and economic justice through:
    • Using federal tax revenue to fund an Opportunity Trust Fund to reinvest in communities and individuals most harmed by the failed War on Drugs.
    • Establishes a Cannabis Justice Office within the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs
    • Establishes a grant program to provide funding to minimize barriers to cannabis licensing and employment for individuals negatively impacted by the War on Drugs.
    • Implementing expedited FDA review of cannabis-containing drugs manufactured by small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged people.
    • Directing the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to establish a grant program to provide communities whose residents have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs with additional funding to address the housing, economic, and community development needs of those residents.
    • Establishing automatic expungement of federal nonviolent cannabis offenses and allowing a person currently in federal prison for nonviolent cannabis offenses to petition a court for resentencing.
    • Denial of any benefits or protections under immigration law to noncitizens based on cannabis use or possession is prohibited.
    • Prevents discrimination in the provision of state benefits to people who use cannabis.
  • Strengthens workers' rights by:
    • Eliminate unnecessary pre-employment federal employees and random drug testing for cannabis
    • Ensuring worker protections for those employed in the cannabis industry.
    • Establish grants for community education, outreach, and workers' rights enforcement in the cannabis industry.

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The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act is sponsored by U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Michael Bennet (D-) supported. CO), Gary Peters (D-MI), Tina Smith (D-MN), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT ), Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), John Fetterman (D-PA) and Laphonza Butler (D-CA).

Senator Murray has been a leader in common-sense cannabis reforms. She helped introduce the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act in the last Congress and first introduced the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in 2017, which would allow state-legal cannabis businesses access to banking services. She has reintroduced the bill several times and is pushing hard for its passage. An updated version of the legislation — the Safe and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act of 2023, which Murray also co-sponsored — passed out of committee last fall after a bipartisan vote.

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