Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act

A new bill to decriminalize and regulate marijuana at the federal level, called the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, has been introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat and current Minority Leader. He has supported cannabis for some time now stating, "If smoking marijuana doesn't hurt anybody else, why shouldn't we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?" The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders,  Vermont independent, and Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.

The legislation would remove marijuana from the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA) that classifies marijuana as dangerous as heroin for legal and regulatory purposes.

The measure, if passed, will allow states to continue to determine their own marijuana laws while maintaining federal law enforcement against trafficking to states where it is illegal. Like California law, the bill will restrict advertising for marijuana and related products for youths and require more research from the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration on the drug’s public health impact (including DUI research).

It will establish a Treasury trust fund for women and minority owned cannabis businesses. Specifically for “socially and economically disadvantaged” individuals working in the cannabis industry. The bill will also provide incentives for state and local governments to administer, adopt, or enhance expungement or sealing programs for marijuana possession convictions. These stipulations can be assumed to help fix the burden of Schedule 1 marijuana that has fallen disproportionately on people of colour, who, though there is no evidence of greater use,  are four times as likely to be arrested for weed as caucasians.

They hope to earn bipartisan support in Congress as no republican has currently signed on.

This bill is yet another notch in the belt for the growing support of cannabis in the past few months from those with influence on Capitol Hill:

  • The FDA approved a marijuana-based drug for childhood seizures;
  • John Boehner, Ohio Republican who served 24 years in the US House of Representatives including extended time as Republic Leader, who was strongly against cannabis, came out in favor wanting to de-schedule cannabis for better research to help veterans and the opioid problem;
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican and Majority Leader, introducing legislation to permanently decriminalize hemp, a nonpsychoactive byproduct of cannabis whose industrial production was allowed freely during WWII;
  • As mentioned in a previous blog, a bill introduced to shield state compliant cannabis businesses from the federal government was introduced earlier this month by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, and Sen. Cory Gardner, Colorado Republican; and
  • President Donald Trump told Sen. Cory Gardner he will support efforts to protect states that have legalized marijuana, despite the hard lined stance his administration has been taking, according to a statement from the senator.

 

Official press statement here

Fact Sheet here

Section by Section Summary here

Full Text of Act here