On July 14, 2021, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)—along with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)—unveiled draft legislation to legalize marijuana, commencing what will be a tough debate within his own chamber.

Referred to as the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, key planks and proposals include:

  • Decriminalization of Cannabis, Recognition of State Law Controlling Cannabis
    • Removal from Controlled Substances Act, Transfer of Federal Agency Function;
    • Recognition of State Law Controlling Cannabis, Establishment of Public Safety and Enforcement; and
    • Establishing Minimum Age, Restriction on Retail Sale.
  • Restorative Justice and Opportunity Programs
    • Creation of Opportunity Trust Fund Programs and Small Business Administration Programs;
    • Publishing of Demographic Data of Cannabis Business Owners and Employees;
    • Resentencing and Expungement;
    • Eliminating Discrimination in Provision of Federal Public Benefits;
    • Prohibiting Adverse Effect for Purposes of Immigration Laws; and
    • Provisions of Medical Cannabis Recommendations by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Indian Health Service.
  • Taxation of Cannabis and Establishment of Trust Fund
    • Imposition of Tax on Cannabis Products; and
    • Rules around Establishment and Permitting.
  • Public Health, Cannabis Administration, and Trade Practices
    • General Provisions Regarding Agency Jurisdiction;
    • Food and Drug Administration Regulation of Cannabis;
    • Establishment of Cannabis Products Regulatory Advisory Committee; and
    • Cannabis Administration and Trade Practices Enforcement.

With marijuana legislation spreading rapidly around the country—18 states having fully legalized it and 37 states permitting medical marijuana—public opinion suggests widespread bipartisan support for such a bill. Despite that, it is an uphill battle to secure the votes in the Senate as well as garner support from President Biden who has supported decriminalizing—but not legalizing—marijuana in the past.

Schumer has several reluctant members within his own caucus and will have to scrounge up at least ten Republican votes for the legislation during an already chaotic Senate calendar filled with Biden administration priorities on infrastructure, police accountability and education.

Given that this is a discussion draft, lawmakers and the general public—including advocates, the cannabis industry, public health experts, and the law enforcement community—have until September 1 to provide comment before a bill is later formally introduced.