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New Bill Would Legalize Weed, End Federal Prohibition

Does the long-awaited federal legalization bill stand a chance? Yes, if you pressure the Senate.

Forbes

Three Senate Democrats on Wednesday are unveiling a renewed push to legalize marijuana at the federal level, reports The Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) will introduce a discussion draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act.

“The fact that every member will know once we introduce this legislation — not only that it has my support, but that it will come to the floor for a vote — is going to help move things forward in a very strong way,” Schumer told Politico in April.

According to a summary of the discussion draft obtained by NBC News, the legislation will remove the herb from the Controlled Substances Act within 60 days. It will set up a system to tax Cannabis in states that legalize it. The bill will also expunge federal convictions of nonviolent marijuana charges.

Helping Communities Most Harmed

The plan would implement a series of programs to help communities that have been harmed by the war on drugs. These have disproportionately tended to be communities of color, reports CBS News.

A community reinvestment program would provide funding to nonprofits to help people incarcerated under harsh marijuana laws. It would also provide such people with reentry services and job training. 

The Small Business Administration would oversee the development of the other two programs. The first would provide funding to states and localities for loans for small businesses in the Cannabis industry. The second would allow licensing programs to reduce barriers to entry in marijuana businesses for individuals.

States Keep Power To Write Their Own Pot Laws

Under their plan, states would be able to write their own cannabis laws. Marijuana would be eliminated from the federal list of controlled substances within 60 days of implementation.

The bill would shift jurisdiction from the DEA. Most authority would go to the the Food and Drug Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

As is the case with alcohol and tobacco, marijuana and its products would be subject to an excise tax. The tax rate would increase over a five-year period after enactment. It would start at 10% and gradually increasing to 25% after five years. But a credit reducing the tax rate by half would be available for marijuana businesses making less than $20 million annually.

Federal Legalization: Getting the Votes

Schumer told NBC’s “Today” Show in an interview aired Wednesday morning he is working on getting the votes in the Senate for the legislation. 

Eighteen states have already legalized recreational Cannabis and 37 states have legalized medical marijuana. Contrary to the predictions and hysteria of anti-pot forces, the sky didn’t fall.

Support for legalization has also increased exponentially over the years. Multiple polls show a growing majority of Americans are saying weed should be legal. A Pew Research poll from April showed that 60% of Americans think marijuana should be legalized for recreational and medical use.

In 1969, just 12 percent of Americans supported legalization, Gallup polling found. Last year, Gallup measured support at 68 percent, according to NBC News.

‘Bring Common Sense to the Federal Government’

“Cannabis prohibition, a key pillar of the failed War on Drugs, has caused substantial harm to our communities and small businesses, and especially for communities of color,” Senator Wyden said.

“There is an urgency to this because there are people all over our country seeing their lives destroyed. They’re hurt,” Booker said on the “Today” show. 

“While red and blue states across the country continue to legalize marijuana, the federal government continues to lag woefully behind,” Booker said.

How Much Support In Senate?

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the court’s most conservative members, said last month that federal laws against Cannabis may no longer make sense.

President Joe Biden has previously said he supports decriminalizing marijuana on the federal level. Biden supports leaving it up to the states to choose whether to legalize, press secretary Jen Psaki said in April.

It’s now yet clear how much support the bill will garner in the Senate. Ten Republican votes, along with all Democrats, must support for the bill to clear the 60 vote filibuster-proof threshold.