Democrats to Introduce Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill on 4/20, Clarifying Their Stance Prior to November Election

A trio of top Democrats in the US Senate, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, is seeking cosponsors for a marijuana legalization bill they plan to introduce on 4/20. Although the measure is unlikely to pass the US Congress this year, it may have a shot in 2025.

“Leader Schumer, Chair Wyden, and Senator Booker invite you to cosponsor the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), a comprehensive bill to decriminalize, regulate, and tax cannabis”, states a letter circulating among members of the United States Senate. The CAOA would require the US attorney general to finalize rules removing marijuana as a controlled substance within 180 days, place a 5% federal excise tax on marijuana producers that would increase to 12.5% by the fifth year, and establish the Center for Cannabis Products within the FDA, tasked with regulating “the production, labeling, distribution, sales and other manufacturing and retail elements of the cannabis industry”.

Giving a knowing wink to marijuana consumers and supporters, the measure will be officially introduced on 4/20, the unofficial marijuana holiday.

The move to introduce a legalization bill at a time when a potential reschedule to Schedule III is dominating the conversation (due to the DEA’s review of a recommendation from the Department of Health and Human Services), clarifies that most Democrats are behind fully descheduling marijuana.

A similar measure to the CAOA in the House of Representatives – the MORE Act – has 87 sponsors, all Democrat.

Although neither proposal has much of a chance of being enacted into law under the current political climate, Democrats have made it clear with these two bills where they stand, and what they will pursue if they take control of Congress this November.

If the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives (currently they have 213 members to the Republican’s 218), they will almost certainly pass the newest version of the MORE Act, given they passed the same bill in 2022 when they last controlled the chamber. At the time Democrats did not control the Senate, which they now do (albeit narrowly).

If Democrats take control of the House, and retain the Senate, the biggest hurdle to the MORE Act or CAOA becoming law will be the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster. This hurdle could be overcome if just a handful of Senate Republicans decide to join Democrats in supporting the measure, or if 50 members of the Senate (with a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Kamala Harris) vote to bypass the filibuster.

If Republicans retain control of the House, take back control of the Senate and/or win back the presidency, it’s almost certain that the MORE Act and CAOA will have no path forward in the near future.

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