criminal justice Drug War Jessica Corbett

Marijuana Justice Coalition Applauds ‘Long Overdue’ Senate Legalization Bill

"The official introduction of this bill to finally end the policy nightmare of federal marijuana prohibition is the culmination of unprecedented leadership in the Senate and engagement with stakeholders across the political spectrum," said NORML's political director.
Matt Litrenta, left, and Mike Biggio, right, check on some of their marijuana plants inside Flower Factory at Area 420 on April 20, 2022 in Moffat, Colorado. (Photo: Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

By Jessica Corbett / Common Dreams

Cannabis policy reform campaigners across the United States on Thursday celebrated Senate Democrats’ long-awaited introduction of legislation to legalize marijuana nationwide and begin addressing the harms of the decades long war on drugs.

The Marijuana Justice Coalition, convened by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), praised the effort that the trio behind the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA)—Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.Y.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)—put into developing it.

“As a diverse coalition of organizations, we have worked diligently to ensure that issues ranging from criminal justice to immigrant rights to workers’ rights and economic justice are included in the bill,” the coalition said. “We look forward to going through the proposal with a fine-tooth comb to ensure that the legislative text will best address the decades of harm prohibition has inflicted on people of color and marginalized communities.”

Maritza Perez, director of DPA’s Office of Federal Affairs, declared that “the significance of this bill finally being introduced in the Senate cannot be understated.”

Building on the House-approved Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, the CAOA “would not only deschedule marijuana at the federal level, but it also begins to repair the extensive economic and societal tolls that have been caused by prohibition,” Perez noted.

Specifically, as Akua Amaning, director of criminal justice reform at the Center for American Progress, explained, the bill would “correct decades of harms by facilitating the expungement and resentencing of nonviolent federal marijuana convictions.”

ACLU senior policy counsel Aamra Ahmad said that “if you want to know what systemic racism is, look no further than the war on drugs and marijuana enforcement—a Black person is 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, even though Black and white people use marijuana at similar rates. As a result, people of color are unevenly bearing the burdens of having a marijuana conviction, including difficulty securing housing, employment, education, and public benefits.”

Amaning pointed out that “by reinvesting tax revenue from marijuana businesses into the communities most affected by the war on drugs, the CAOA would help fuel job growth and increase opportunity for communities most harmed by our country’s criminalization of marijuana.”

Sirine Shebaya, executive director of the National Immigration Project, emphasized that the drug war has also “had devastating consequences for immigrant communities.”

“Beyond the already harsh criminal consequences of marijuana convictions,” Shebaya said, “immigrants are additionally punished through draconian penalties including detention, deportation, and family separation—even in states where marijuana use has been decriminalized.”

While several U.S. states and territories have decriminalized and even legalized adult medicinal and recreational use of marijuana, advocates have continued to push for federal legislation—and urged members of Congress to learn from previous local efforts.

“Like Senate Majority Leader Schumer, we believe that federal marijuana legalization should provide opportunities for small and minority-owned businesses, not Big Tobacco and the other ‘big boys,'” said Shaleen Title, founder of the Parabola Center.

“However, as state after state has demonstrated, it takes more than just a commitment to equitably implement a framework for legal cannabis. It takes attention to detail, evaluation of evidence, and a willingness to make course corrections,” Title added.

Marijuana Moment reported Thursday that the CAOA was formally introduced just over a year after Senate Democrats unveiled a draft version and now “incorporates significant feedback received through more than 1,800 comments.”

As the outlet detailed:

[The] main thrust of the now-filed 296-page legalization bill closely resembles that of the earlier version, which weighed in at a mere 163 pages—though the senators highlighted a number of changes, which generally expand on the draft.

For example, there are revisions concerning cannabis industry workers’ rights, a federal responsibility to set an impaired driving standard, banking access, expungements, and penalties for possessing or distributing large quantities of marijuana without a federal permit.

The bill would also create a new federal definition for hemp that would increase the permissible THC by dry weight to 0.7% from the current 0.3%, but also make it so all THC isomers would be included in that total, not just delta-9 THC.

Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, Schumer said that “I am proud to be the first majority leader ever to say that it is time to end the federal prohibition on cannabis, and this bill provides the best framework for updating our cannabis laws and reversing decades of harm inflicted by the war on drugs.”

“I’ve had many productive conversations with my Republican and Democratic colleagues about cannabis reform and I look forward to working with members from both sides of the aisle to secure support for this bill,” he continued, outlining the CAOA’s key provisions and stressing that “this is the beginning of the legislative process, not the end.”

NORML political director Morgan Fox said that “the official introduction of this bill to finally end the policy nightmare of federal marijuana prohibition is the culmination of unprecedented leadership in the Senate and engagement with stakeholders across the political spectrum.”

“We look forward to working with lawmakers to move this legislation toward passage and eagerly anticipate engaging in substantive conversations on all aspects of federal marijuana law with Senate members. These conversations and hearings are long overdue,” Fox added, noting public support for reform. “Now is the time to figure out how to do that in a way that effectively addresses the damage done to marginalized communities and creates equitable opportunities in the burgeoning cannabis industry.”

Jessica Corbett
Jessica Corbett

Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

10 comments

  1. this reeks of desperation. will it be a done deal before the mid-terms? or do they plan to use it as the biggest carrot on their shitstick. hard to believe they’d do anything to upset their private-prison/big pharma/slave-labor-dependent/asset-forfeiture-dependent donors…

    1. It’s all just show. Passing this isn’t going to save the democrats, neither is the abortion issue.

  2. recognition that puritanism is more pronounced in America than 3 centuries ago…”busy busy numb–americans cannot feel themselves alive unless they feel themselves busy. america is a vast goo of meaningless stimulation”. Thomas de
    Zengodita
    as Bauman, Giddens, etc demonstrate—“speed obliterates the capacity to think”; obvious for Plato, Berdayaev, Tocqueville, Schiller, Kant, Marx, etc

  3. Pingback: The Ganja Guru
  4. My family has been in a torturous hell-like state of arrested development and terror as we wait for the passage of legislative reform.
    We live in a legal adult use state and yet are still facing possible deportation and family-separation due to this wicked and outdated prohibition.
    Bless the people working on this legislation and please don’t let 10 to 20 backward thinking cowards dash our hopes for freedom and justice.

  5. Much as criminalization was a racist, anti-environmental scam, and people wanted legalization 50+ years ago, this will only happen if new revenue streams open up. State and federal taxes, yes, but it’s the fat lobbying checks that Congress is chasing. If you think laws and licensing at the state level are expensive and/or ridiculously corrupt, stay tuned.* Patent #6630507, from which the feds will likely want to wet their beaks, covers the CBD present in every strain. The key is home grow rights, now in only ten states. With enough gumption and a few grams of organic GTFO, this could work out for patients and the wider public.

    Here’s to it – experiencing a nation that puts it people first, at least once in a blue moon.

    * and do *not* get me started on New Hampshire. This is a family comment thread.

  6. WAKE UP AMERICA. THE CORPORATE DEMOCRATS KEEP PULLING THE SAME
    SHELL GAME OF “WE’RE HERE TO HELP YOU ” OVER AND OVER AGAIN AND YOU
    KEEP FALLING FOR IT! YOU MUST UNDERSTAND HOW CORPOATE POWER
    WORKS!

    There was never a grass movement of ordinary folks clamoring for marijuana legalization.
    And there is no coalition of old grey-haired hippies in ponytails behind the legalization
    movement. Most of them are now dead, suffering from emphysema and or they have
    lost their minds to the damage marijuana causes brain cells.
    Marijuana causes emphysema ten times faster than tobacco, It is a highly concentrated
    composition of insoluble oils of which one’s body has extreme difficulty metabolizing.
    The marijuana high is extremely addictive to those of whom are troubled, chronically
    stressed or vulnerable to any addictive state that gives them temporary relief from
    a troubled mind or troubled environment or simply as a means to cope through a
    troubled world. Today’s American youth are the most troubled and stressed generation
    in world history. The civilization we have created for them is mentally toxic.
    The civilization they are inheriting is not sane enough to raise children capable
    of navigating through a hostile political system that embraces a form of predatory
    capitalism that considers women and mothers as second-class citizens and children as
    third class citizens of which to the privileged, are commodity’s to be exploited until
    exhaustion and eventual death.
    Any mother of whom adheres to the USDA recommended pyramid diet will direct her
    child to have diabetes within ten years. Hence: child diabetes is now a national endemic.
    There is no incentive for BIG FOOD, PHARMA AND MEDICINE to allow you to know
    the truth. A healthy public will not serve the sociopathic Jackals of predatory capitalism.
    Further, because BIG FOOD now tells us what to eat and manages how it is made, we
    routinely consume over 250 cancer causing chemicals including compounds that cause
    junk food addiction. Worse yet, an independent study found that these processed foods,
    leached of vital nutrients, are the leading cause of behavioral disorders such as the
    spectrums of ADD’s.
    And we are the only nation within the developed world ignorant enough to allow
    corporate power to, in addition to destroying our government regulations that keep us
    safe and keep us healthy – to purge our education system of Civic’s and the humanities.
    Vital building blocks for survival and healthy human development.
    So, with our children compelled to choose suicide or lethal gun violence as a failed means to manage the duress we have imposed upon them, do we really need to offer
    them another dangerous addictive substance?
    We saw what happened with Opioids, Purdue and the Sackler family of whom, as they
    saw the death toll climb finally to 1/2 million, because they have no conscience, they
    continued corrupting politicians and deploying ever increasing and more ruthless
    marketing strategy’s because their lust and addition to power and wealth was more
    valuable than human life or a conscience!

    AMERICA DOES NOT PUNISH or put CEOs behind bars and the Wall STREET
    investors of whom have already invested, allegedly over 100 billion in a national
    network of statewide legalization schemes, knows this fully well.

    WITH NO LAWS OR REGULATIONS OR FEAR OF PUNISHMENT TO STOP THEM,
    THEY WILL KEEP PUSHING MARIJUANA ON OUR STRESSED YOUTH UNTILL EVERY
    CONVENIENCE STORE IN AMERICA IS SELLING PACKS AND NATIONAL BRANDS
    OF MARIJAUNA TO OUR YOUTH. AND WE WILL SEE TEN YEAR OLDS BECOMING
    PETTY THEIVES (at first) IN EFFORT TO SUPPORT THEIR ADDICTION.

    Two years ago, in my state of Missouri, our conservative legislature, of which is under
    direct order of the American Legislative Exchange Council ) passed legislation
    of which allows Marijuana to be fortified 20 time over with its powerful addictive
    derivative, THC.
    In turn, just as with fortifying tobacco with nicotine, this will induce a very swift and
    efficient marijuana addiction.
    Within five to ten years of legalization, we will have completely lost an entire generation
    of American youth, utterly incapable of surviving corporate America’s and the Christian
    Rights war on the people’s rights, laws and governments of fairness, equity and justice.
    We will see massive escalations of crime. Mindless and clumsy pot heads are dangerous
    and unemployable.
    Front end collisions will likely be so common, only the well to do will afford auto insurance without great sacrifice.
    WORSE YET, for our growing number of distressed American youth, suicide can easily
    be achieved in one setting likely with one fortified joint.
    You must read Wickopedia’s definition of and scientifically referenced list of damages that marijuana causes the human brain.

    WALL STREET- not the people clamored for criminal punishment for marijuana
    addiction because the private prison system would and did produce hundreds of
    billions in windfall profits.
    NOW WALL STREET wants legalization of marijuana for the same purpose!
    WALL STREETS PROFITIZATION SCHEMES from the damage they have previously
    caused is caused ” Disaster Capitalism ”

    Marijuana should be legalized BUT ONLY ONLY so long as it is also re-classified as a
    national health problem AND REGULATED FROM THE GRASP OF CORPORATE
    PREDATORS just as it is in most European nations.
    Legalization must also be accompanied by ongoing and endless Public Service
    Announcements and repeated warnings of danger taught throughout our public education system.

  7. Cannabis consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and even glorified as an All-American pastime, alcohol.

    Plain and simple!

    Legalize Nationwide Federally Now!

    The “War on Cannabis” has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful “War on Drugs” that has cost our country over a trillion dollars.

    Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions more of our yearly tax dollars fighting a never ending “War on Cannabis”, lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. Especially now, due to Covid-19. It’s a no brainer.

    The Prohibition of Cannabis has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being given permanent criminal records. Especially, if they happen to be of the “wrong” skin color or they happen to be from the “wrong” neighborhood. Which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?

    Cannabis is much safer to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?

    Let’s end this hypocrisy now!

    The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less cannabis “crimes” because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.

    Cannabis Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

    Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Cannabis Legalization Initiative!

  8. North Korea never illegalized marijuana–but they do not need to regress and hide a haze of ruling class delusions…amerikans/canadians consume more than all others

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