Today (Wednesday, September 1) is the deadline to submit comments on a draft Senate bill to federally legalize marijuana. And as you can imagine, feedback has flooded in from a broad array of advocates and industry stakeholders.
The Cannabis community has widely celebrated the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. But — you guessed it! — they have some suggestions for improvement. Those suggestions principally concern issues of social equity, licensing, tax policy and interstate commerce, reports Marijuana Moment.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are the lead sponsors of the legislation. After their July release of a draft version, they requested input. Some of the ideas offered could be used in a revised measure the senators plan to formally introduce.
Organizations like NORML, Marijuana Policy Project, National Cannabis Industry Association and Hemp Roundtable offered their opinions on the bill. They generally applauded the senators’ work to end federal marijuana prohibition. But they also recommended som changes. Pot-hating groups, of course, also weighed in with Prohibitionist thoughts about the proposal. Thse folks want to change the law to make it harder for folks to grow and obtain Cannabis. And they want it to be easier for you to get in trouble for it.
Marijuana Justice Coalition
The Marijuana Justice Coalition includes the ACLU, Center for American Progress, Drug Policy Alliance, Human Rights Watch, Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, MoveOn, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. The group sent a joint letter on the legalization proposal.
The coalition said the federal approach is generally modeled on the federal approach to alcohol and tobacco. The coalation added the measure “seeks to regulate cannabis like a vice.”
However, the group did grant that CAOA “includes critical elements to end federal criminalization and repair many of the harms from criminalization.
The coalition recommended “an approach [to reform] that does not just include reparative justice, health equity, and community reinvestment as a subset of a larger policy reform, but rather an approach where these components are the primary goal.”
The nation’s oldest pro-pot group largely focuses on the need to help repair the harms of prohibition. NORML also aims to ensure that there are regulations in place to prevent the corporate consolidation of the industry. The group seeks to protect the infrastructure of existing state markets.
The organization also surveyed activists and included its findings in its comment letter. Seventy-three percent of respondents said including provisions to expunge past records is very or somewhat important to them. And 68 percent said the legislation should end drug testing for cannabis.
Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, said the “CAOA draft represents a thoughtful path forward toward ending federal marijuana criminalization.”
Marijuana Policy Project
MPP stressed in its letter that while federal legalization is necessary, the rollout should be thoughtful and gradual. The group believes the federal government should exercise deference to states This is to avoid jeopardizing efforts to promote equity in the industry.
While being “enthusiastic about the goals of the CAO Act Discussion Draft,” the group had some concerns.
“We believe the regulatory aspects need significant clarification and revision to avoid unintended consequences,” saiKaren O’Keefe, state policies director for MPP. O’Keefe cited the possible upending of state licensing and regulatory systems. This would drive sales underground. O’Keeefe also said she was concerned over the measure’s impact on access to medical Cannabis access. This especially applies to patients under 21.
The group called for better provisions to provide relief for those impacted by marijuana criminalization. MPP wants to dedicate more tax revenue to communities hardest hit by prohibition.
MPP additionally proposed policies aimed at protecting medical Cannabis patients and dispensaries. The include eliminating any federal tax on medical marijuana.
“The vast majority of Americans support legalizing cannabis for adults,” O’Keefe wrote.
National Cannabis Industry Association
NCIA said that it solicited feedback on the draft legalization bill from stakeholders large and small to inform its comments.
It discussed testing standards for Cannabis products, interagency regulatory coordination, and access to federal aid for marijuana businesse. It also noted the need to allow states to set retail sales limits.
“Given your demonstrated focus on engaging with the people most directly impacted by cannabis policy reform, we hope the breadth and depth of our feedback will enable you to enact sound legislation which fosters the growth of a thriving and equitable legal cannabis industry,” the organization said.
U.S. Cannabis Council
USCC, like other groups, said it feels the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) should be the main regulators for the cannabis industry.
It also said the complexity of marijuana production requires “a new model of taxation, at rates that do not fuel the illicit market.”
USCC further said federal law should account for legal obstacles in state markets and ensure that there’s a more gradual, transitionary process after a given state legalizes marijuana. The group said this should happen before states subject to federal rules that could disrupt social equity goals.
“Cannabis prohibition in America is coming to an end,” said CEO Steven Hawkins of USCC. “The draft legislative text provides a road map for transitioning to a more just, equitable and prosperous future, particularly for emerging and social equity businesses and those directly impacted by cannabis prohibition.”
Students for Sensible Drug Policy
SSDP said that the Drug War “has inflicted incalculable harm on marginalized communities—particularly communities of color.”
It added the Drug War “weaponized cannabis over the last 50 years with disgustingly successful results.”
The organization said it appreciates the senators’ work to correct these issues. But it did offer some proposed revisions. These include preventing the criminalization of people under 21 for marijuana. SSDP recommends eliminating restrictive language on who could qualify for federal relief after legalization is enacted.
“While fueling the public health crisis of mass incarceration, marijuana prohibition targeted the foundation of [marginalized] communities, leaving countless youth without guidance, an incalculable amount of economic loss, and millions of families suffering the loss of loved ones,” SSDP said in its comments. “The time has long since past to put this nightmare to an end.”
Americans for Safe Access
ASA spotlights access for medical cannabis patients. So it’s no surprise the patient-focused group discussed a number of subjects in which senators said they were especially interested. These include appropriate ways to measure potency, agency responsibilities for regulation and the composition of a federal advisory board.
The group’s comments center upon ensuring patient access to Cannabis is not negatively impacted by federal regulations.
The organization also recommended the legislation address the denial of federally assisted housing to people who use Cannabis in compliance with state laws. It encouraged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to “develop a cannabis physician education curriculum for VA and civilian physicians.”