After several delays and much anticipation, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer formally filed his long-awaited cannabis legalization bill alongside Senate Finance Committee chair, Senator Ron Wyden, and Senator Cory Booker. This bill will legalize cannabis at the federal level and contains social equity provisions that would attempt to address the harms caused by the war on drugs.
Just a day after Schumer filed the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), the bill gained two cosponsors, one of them a leading Democratic Senator who praised the legislation but said there was still an urgent need to work on cannabis banking. With the inclusion of Assistant Democratic Leader Patty Murray and Senator Gary Peters as cosponsors, the number of senators signed onto the bill is now five.
In a press release, Murray said that the federal government needs to catch up to Washington state regarding cannabis laws. Washington legalized medical cannabis in 1998 and was the first state to legalize the sale and use of recreational cannabis. She stated that Schumer’s cannabis bill was based on justice, would strengthen the economy and would finally allow the federal government to adapt to the 21st century.
Murray said that the drug war was especially hard on people of color and noted that CAOA was important because it would address the “deeply unfair and unjust” laws that have harmed and marginalized such communities. Furthermore, she stated that the bill would modernize the country’s federal laws and strengthen the economy. Cannabis has proven to be extremely lucrative, with states that have legal recreational markets collecting more than $3.7 billion in taxes in 2021 alone.
The assistant Democratic leader also emphasized the need to address cannabis banking, specifically mentioning the bipartisan Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, a bill that would protect financial institutions that work with cannabis businesses and finally grant those businesses access to much-needed banking services. Although SAFE has passed in the House of Representatives six times, the Senate has rejected the bill each time.
Murray acknowledged that while the reforms included in Schumer’s comprehensive legalization bill are critical, she was still committed to passing the cannabis banking legislation in some form. She said that it makes no legal sense for cannabis businesses to operate on a cash-only basis and that the SAFE banking bill, which she cosponsored, would finally bring the state-legal cannabis industry into the banking system.
However, the SAFE act has little chance of advancing past the Senate. Schumer has stated that he would rather pass comprehensive reform first before passing cannabis banking legislation. Last September, he revealed that he and a group of key senators had agreed not to advance banking reform before federal legalization.
The hopes of the entire marijuana industry and ancillary companies such as Advanced Container Technologies Inc. (OTC: ACTX) is that cannabis policy is finally overhauled at the federal level so that the regulations at the top are in tandem with the rules governing states with legal marijuana markets.
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