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Schumer Cannabis Bill Is The Start Of A Long Road - AdobeStock 242406903

Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, will be releasing a discussion draft of the long-awaited bill to federally legalize cannabis today, officially kickstarting a difficult debate, but is also a "major splash" for one of his campaign promises. 

The press conference will be held with Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), will propose removing federal penalties on cannabis, expunging nonviolent federal cannabis-related criminal records, and letting states decide if or how to legalize the drug.

Unfortunately, the Senators have several reluctant members who might make it hard to round up at least 10 Republican votes for the legislation. 

The timing is not ideal with a chaotic Senate calendar filled with Biden administration priorities on infrastructure, police accountability, and education. 

Most importantly, for any bill to become law, it needs President Joe Biden, who has supported decriminalizing marijuana but not legalizing it, to sign the bill.  The bill is titled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act.

In March, one main point Schumer made was that large tobacco and alcohol companies would be restricted from taking over the industry.

Although it is unclear how this would be accomplished, Schumer said he would prioritize small businesses, particularly those owned by communities most impacted by prohibition. 

According to Politico, key policy details include: 

"The discussion draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act includes provisions that cater to both “states rights” Republicans and progressive Democrats. While the proposal seeks to remove all federal penalties on weed, it would allow states to prohibit even the possession of cannabis — along with production and distribution — a nod to states’ rights. 

It would also establish funding for a wide range of federal research into everything from drugged driving to the impact cannabis has on the human brain. In addition, the measure aims to collect data about traffic deaths, violent crime, and other public health concerns often voiced by Republican lawmakers. 

On the flip side, the proposal also includes provisions that are crucial to progressives.

That includes three grant programs designed to help socially or economically disadvantaged individuals, as well as those hurt by the war on drugs and expungements of federal non-violent cannabis offenses. 

States and cities also have to create an automatic expungement program for prior cannabis offenses to be eligible for any grant funding created by the bill."

The discussion draft being released today will be looking for input broadly from other lawmakers. Schumer, Wyden, and Booker's offices are taking comments (from lawmakers, the general public, the cannabis industry, public health experts, and the law enforcement community) until September 1st.