Schumer Reintroduces Comprehensive Cannabis Legalization Bill in Congress

Wed, May 1

A trio of U.S. Senators reintroduced their plan for comprehensive cannabis law reform on Wednesday. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senators Ron Wyden and Cory Booker held a news conference to announce that they will refile the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. The bill, which they first introduced in 2022, would end federal prohibition by fully removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. The bill also proposes a regulatory framework that covers everything from workplace safety and impaired driving standards to funds for restorative justice.. 

“Our bill, if passed, would close the door on an outdated and harmful mode of way of thinking at the federal level, while allowing for reform, sensible regulation, to take root,” Schumer said.

Schumer said he was “pleased” by the news on April 30 that the Drug Enforcement Administration planned to move cannabis from Schedule I to III. While Schedule III will acknowledge the medical uses for cannabis, it does not decriminalize or regulate cannabis at the federal level.

“Reclassifying cannabis is necessary, and it’s a long overdue step. But it is not the end of the story. It’s not all we need to do. It’s time for Congress to wake up to the times and do its part by passing the cannabis reform that most Americans have wished for,” Schumer said. 

The bill currently has 18 sponsors, the highest number ever for the bill. But that might not be enough for the legislation to pick up momentum. 

The comprehensive nature of CAOA has helped to shape the conversation in Congress in recent years as it moves from whether to legalize to how to legalize. At the same time, the scope of the bill makes it a tougher sell. The cannabis-related legislation with the most momentum behind it in recent years is one that would allow state-legal cannabis businesses access to financial services, and that bill has failed repeatedly to progress.

Wyden said that the political reality is that “Senate Republicans are just saying no to everything.” This he finds surprising because descheduling cannabis is “a monument to states’ rights” and “kind of a Republican’s dream.” 

“What they really mean is, well, it will be states’ rights if they think the state is right,” Wyden said. 

Booker said that he feels a “sense of urgency” over the bill because of the disproportionate arrests of Black cannabis consumers. 

“What is extraordinary is that this enforcement of our marijuana laws does not make Americans safer. If anything, it makes us less safe,” Booker said.

Booker added that it’s a “great step that the Biden administration is moving in the direction of  not making this a Schedule I drug”

“But honestly,” he continued, “the bill that we are reintroducing today is the solution to this long, agonizing, hypocritical, frankly, unequally enforced, set of bad laws.”