Story at a glance
- Senate Democrats introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act on Wednesday that would legalize cannabis sales in the U.S.
- Up to 10 ounces of cannabis could be purchased legally and would be subject to a sales tax.
- The bill would also work to overturn nonviolent convictions made during the war on drugs.
Senate Democrats unveiled a much-anticipated draft legislation decriminalizing marijuana in the United States, titled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAO).
Introduced by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) along with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) on Wednesday, the bill would remove cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances and introduce new regulations to interstate and international trade.
Most critically, the bill calls for restitution for individuals who were previously prosecuted and convicted for being in possession of marijuana as part of the previous war on drugs policy campaign, which notably targeted people of color. The CAO would include measures to expunge federal nonviolent marijuana crimes and help those currently serving sentences.
“It’s our legislative proposal to end the federal prohibition on marijuana and repair damage done by the War on Drugs—especially in communities of color,” Schumer wrote on Twitter.
The bill would establish a minimum age of 21 to legally use marijuana, identical to the legal minimum age to consume alcohol. Any given sales transaction would also limit each individual sale to no more than 10 ounces of cannabis to prevent any illegal trafficking.
The bill also proposes an excise tax on all cannabis products, similar to the taxes currently imposed on tobacco and alcohol products. The tax rate would stand at 10 percent during the first year following the bill’s ratification, gradually increasing by 5 percent over the following years.
Taxes would be levied per-milligram of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active psychoactive compound in cannabis, for cannabis extract products and per ounce for cannabis flower. Small cannabis producers, specifically those with less than $20 million in annual sales, would also be eligible for a 50-percent tax break in the form of a credit.
All tax revenue would go to federal initiatives that would reinvest the money in communities disproportionately targeted by the war on drugs and help entrepreneurs of color succeed in the newly-legal industry.
Recent national polling data shows Americans overwhelmingly support legalizing marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes. The cannabis industry has grown rapidly as it became legal in some states for medicinal purposes and pain relief as well as for general use in other states.
Following the introduction of the CAO, advocacy organizations like the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce (GACC) have voiced support for its passage.
"Leader Schumer is...leading the way for a better path forward for the millions of Americans—from consumers, to employees, and businesses—affected by cannabis prohibition. The time for members of the House and Senate to end prohibition is this Congress," GACC President Rezwan Khan said.