Senate Democrats Introduce Plan to Decriminalize Marijuana Federally

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Cory Booker, and Senator Ron Wyden introduced legislation on Wednesday to remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances and decriminalize marijuana in the United States.

“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,” Senator Schumer said.

The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAO), if passed, would also call for individuals that have been prosecuted or convicted for possessing the drug will be compensated, and federal non-violent marijuana offenses will be expunged.

“The bill automatically expunges federal non-violent marijuana crimes and allows an individual currently serving time in federal prison for non-violent marijuana crimes to petition a court for resentencing,” the draft states.

Wyden called the bill “cannabis common sense.”

Consumers will have to be at least 21 years old to purchase the plant and would only be allowed to buy up to ten ounces. There would be a 10 percent tax rate. The tax rate will increase by five percent after five years of CAO’s passage. The amount of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) will determine the tax amount. Cannabis producers would also be eligible to receive a fifty percent tax break.

All tax revenue would go to the federal government.

“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,” Rezwan Khan, President at Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce, said.

While the legislation would not legalize marijuana, it would decriminalize it -meaning it would remain illegal, but the legal system would not prosecute a person for possession under a specified amount.

President Richard Nixon’s 1970s ‘War On Drugs’ campaign paved the way for the mass incarceration of Black people all over the United States. John Ehrlichman, a top aide for Nixon during his presidency, told Harper’s magazine in 1994 that the ‘War on Drugs’ campaign was a political tool to attack Black people and young hippies that used recreational drugs.

“You want to know what this was really about. The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people. You understand what I’m saying. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, ad vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.

“If legalizing marijuana is unobtainable, states can significantly reduce marijuana arrests and their damaging consequences through depenalization. Decriminalization is a viable third option,” the ACLU wrote in a 2013 “The War on Marijuana in Black and White” report.

“For decades, our federal government has waged a War on Drugs that has unfairly impacted low-income communities and communities of color,” Senator Booker said. “While red and blue states across the country continue to legalize marijuana, the federal government continues to lag woefully behind. It is time for Congress to end the federal marijuana prohibition and reinvest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.”

“We’d certainly listen to some suggestions if that’ll bring more people on board,” Schumer said. “That is not to say we’re going to throw overboard things like expungement of records — very important to us — and other things like that, just ’cause some people don’t like it.”

The House passed legislation last session to decriminalize marijuana, but it died in the Senate. They reintroduced the legislation back in May.


About RavenH

Raven Haywood is a journalist for 10+ years. Graduate from Howard University.

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