Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries have worked side by side on the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act. Let’s take a quick peek at the summary of what this bill entails and what it can mean for the cannabis industry, consumers and communities nationwide.
First and foremost, this bill would eliminate marijuana as a scheduled substance. Currently under the Controlled Substance Act marijuana is a schedule 1 drug, lumped in the same category as hard-core drugs such as LSD, heroine, ecstasy, peyote and meth. According to the DEA schedule I drugs are defined as a substance for a high potential of abuse with no currently recognized medical use.
Other key goals of the bill would be the following:
- Public Safety: If marijuana was to be legalized $250 million would be allocated over the span of five years. These funds would make sure federal agencies had the resources needed to deal with drivers who are under the influence of THC. As of now, there’s no technology to measure impairment and some of these funds would go to development.
- Expungements and Sealing Programs: Over five years $100 million would be given to the DOJ in the form of grants. This money would be spent to urge local and state governments to initiate and enhance sealing and expungement programs for people with prior marijuana possession convictions.
- Help Minorities Start Cannabis Businesses: The SBA would be in charge of administering funds for women and minority owned cannabis businesses. The amount in aid would be dependent on an estimate of the total projected revenue produced by the cannabis industry.
- Protection of Minors: The Department of Treasury would still be responsible for regulating the advertising of cannabis products geared towards children. The law would allow the DOT to impose punishments for violators.
- Protect Rights of States: Federal law enforcement would still have the power to stop individuals from trafficking marijuana into states where it remains illegal.
- Public Health: The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of National Institutes of Health along with the Commission of Food and Drug Administration would be funded with $500 million. These funds would be geared towards developing a better understanding of the effects of marijuana. The study and research of the effects of cannabis as treatment for diseases and the effects of THC on the brain would also be conducted.
These bills keep coming to legalize marijuana on a federal level but it’s still very much illegal. One big hurdle that marijuana legalization continually keeps facing is the current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell is known for killing these bills before they even get a chance to make it to the floor. Since he’s the Senate Majority Leader, he holds the power in deciding what gets heard for a vote and what doesn’t. He has made it very clear that he has no plans to endorse legal marijuana. He also blocked the SAFE Banking Act which would have been a huge win for Cannabis Businesses allowing them access to capital via banks and financial institutions.
Even if by chance the bill pushes through the next fight, would be with the DEA and Ex-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ two powerful sources of opposition who have made it no secret that they are against legalizing cannabis. Thankfully, AG Session is no longer a factor since his firing by President Trump. In addition, Attorney General Barr has already expressed his opinion on the matter. He stated that he has no intention of aggressively pursuing marijuana users in states where marijuana has already been legalized. The Drug Enforcement Administration has already denied two previous petitions to reschedule marijuana.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance the FBI reported that 650,000 individuals were arrested for marijuana violations. This number makes up 40% of drugs arrests in the United States. A startling 89% of those arrested were not drug dealers or manufactures. Shockingly, the arrests were on the account of possession. The U.S government spends $3 billion dollars in tax payer money on the enforcement of cannabis prohibition each year. Most people who are disproportionately arrested are Blacks and Latinos whose usage and distribution are no higher than whites.
If the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act passed, tax money could be made by the purchase of marijuana. The increase of jobs and tax revenue could benefit communities across the nation. The expungement of nonviolent criminal records could give people a second chance whose lives have been wrecked by the war on drugs. Lower income communities could benefit as members of their neighborhoods become legitimate entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry with the aid of government funded programs.
Breakthroughs could also be made to cure or treat ailments in a way that has been restricted before due to the lack of government sanctioned cannabis research. According to a poll by the Center for American Progress 68% of voters are in support of legalizing cannabis and 73% are in support of expunging records for individuals who have prior cannabis related convictions. This is promising because no matter how strong a politician’s stance is on certain issues, they usually succumb to the will of the people. Those that refuse to listen to are often replaced by someone who will.